Here’s a plot twist I didn’t see coming.
Mere months after the city and county coughed up nearly $1.1 million in incentives to attract the revamped DeLorean Motor Co., the venture has been hit with a lawsuit alleging its founders engaged in intellectual property theft.
A suit filed in federal court in Houston accuses four former employees of California-based electric car maker Karma Automotive of stealing design and engineering information to launch their venture resurrecting the ’80s-era DeLorean sports car as an electric vehicle.
In its petition, Karma Automotive maintains that four of its employees were assigned to an initiative dubbed “Project 88,” which aimed to electrify the original DeLorean DMC-12 popularized by the Back to the Future film franchise.
The suit names current DeLorean CEO Joost de Vries, Chief Operating Officer Alan Yuan, Chief Marketing Officer Troy Beetz and Vice President Brand and Creative Neilo Harris as those employees and asks the court to stop their use of Karma’s technology. The pleading also seeks monetary damages.
While DeLorean officials didn’t respond to the Current’s request for comment, de Vries did offer the following comment to the San Antonio Express-News, which first reported on the suit: “This car has a very specific, unique DeLorean lineage that has no relation to Karma Automotive from a design, engineering, supply chain or manufacturing perspective. We remain committed to the future of our company.”
The suit accuses de Vries and the three other former Karma employees of hiding information on their plans for the DeLorean from executives while they were still on staff.
“They actively concealed information from Karma to keep Karma from pursing the project or from finding out what [the] individual defendants were doing,” the legal filing reads. “Then, one by one, they left Karma.”
According to the suit, the defendants conspired to quit Karma Automotive after executives began questioning the viability of the project due to the lack of details provided by the former employees working on the vehicle.
“Within Karma, concerns were raised among Karma’s executives that [the] individual defendants’ proposals for Project 88 were not sufficiently detailed and raised open questions,” the petition reads. “[The] individual defendants repeatedly promised to provide additional details and information, but failed to do so.”
See here for the background. That Express News story is paywalled, so this is the best I can do. I blogged about the origin of the San Antonio-based DeLorean reboot because who doesn’t love a good homage to a classic 80s movie. I don’t know how closely I’ll follow this part of it, but I’m sure there will be an update or two at some point in the future. Texas Public Radio has more.