Racing and pharmaceuticals mogul Don Panoz is suing Nissan and one of its employees, Ben Bowlby, seeking a cease-and-desist order to prevent the company from displaying, selling or racing cars with the BladeGlider’s (pictured top) basic wedge-like shape.
Panoz claims the Nissan BladeGlider – shown at last month's Tokyo motor show – is a copy of his DeltaWing race car (pictured below) that debuted at the 24 Hours of Le Mans race in 2012, and that the design of Nissan’s concept infringes upon his intellectual property.
The lawsuit also draws attention to the Nissan ZEOD RC (pictured below) – a 300km/h-plus hybrid race car due to compete in the 2014 Le Mans 24-hour endurance race.
Panoz and Nissan first came together when Nissan helped finance and supply an engine for the DeltaWing race car. Bowlby, who was on Panoz’s design team for the DeltaWing project, was subsequently hired by Nissan as its director of ‘motorsport innovation’, helping Nissan develop the BladeGlider concept.
Panoz is arguing that after spending tens of millions of dollars proving the DeltaWing’s basic shape – the car is triangular, with a wider wheel track at the rear than at the front – is effective, he has claim to the design as his own intellectual property. If Nissan follows up on its promise to commercialise the BladeGlider concept, then Panoz is concerned the design will enter the public domain, robbing him of the opportunity to licence it to other car makers.
Bowlby is being targeted for allegedly misappropriating confidential information learned during the development of the DeltaWing.
Nissan disputes Panoz’s case, saying inspiration for the BladeGlider came from “the soaring, silent, panoramic freedom of a glider, and the triangular shape of a high-performance ‘swept winged’ aircraft”.