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Elon Musk’s SolarCity accused of intellectual property theft by Cogenra Solar and Khosla Ventures

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SolarCity Corp., soon-to-be Tesla-owned solar panel company, which had already been facing trouble with its acquisition is now staring another lawsuit square in the face. And this one surely is a huge allegation. The solar company has been accused of misappropriating trade secrets and intellectual property theft in a lawsuit filed by rival Cogenra Solar Inc, a wholly owned subsidiary of SunPower Corporation and Khosla Ventures.

In the lawsuit that has been filed in a San Francisco court on Monday, both parties have indicted SolarCity of gaining undue advantage in the development of shingled-cell solar modules. They believe that the former got a solid head start in developing the modules after the accuser(i.e SunPower) shared its shingling technology with them. Khosla Ventures, which owned about 80 per cent of Cogenra is also a plantiff in this case.

In complaint filed in the lawsuit, Cogenra said,

It was only by misappropriating Cogenra’s proprietary technology, including its trade secrets and other intellectual property, that SolarCity and Silevo were later able to announce a claim that they set a new world record for solar panel energy efficiency.

Cogenra further goes on to add that it had shared confidential information with Silevo Inc., which was later acquired by SolarCity. Post acquisition, the merged company began filing patent applications for the misappropriated technology that the former says has been developed by them.

SolarCity which was one of the potential buyers of Cogerna’s solar panel business had obtained confidential information about its technology as part of the due diligence process, say people close to the matter. And now SunPower, the company which finally acquired Cogerna is coming after SolarCity(or indirectly Tesla or Musk) for a fair share and credit for their tech.

But, Elon Musk’s company has outright denied any and all claims allegedly stating that it has independently developed all of its shingling technology — layering solar cells to increase the efficiency of panels. Instead they have discovered that one of their former employees has joined SunPower and shared confidential information, internal trade secrets with them. But both the plaintiff’s have stated that the aforementioned statements are false, but a SolarCity spokesperson, Jonathan Bass has commented on the lawsuit, saying,

The company was confident the court ultimately will reject Cogenra’s claims, which are factually and legally baseless. Instead of taking responsibility and ensuring the return of our misappropriated trade secrets, SunPower subsidiary Cogenra raced to court to divert attention from its conduct by filing a meritless lawsuit.

Now, it will be important to see how the court proceeds with this lawsuit — whether the outcome falls in favor of Cogenra or SolarCity. The former, i.e the accuser has asked the court to bar SolarCity from using its technology and compensate for the total amount of rival’s profit for use of the same.

A hands-on guy fascinated by new apps, technologies and enterprise products.

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