Well-known auto designer Henrik Fisker on Monday filed a $100 million civil extortion lawsuit against his former employer, Aston Martin, in connection to a vehicle that is scheduled to be unveiled next week in Detroit.
The suit, according to Fisker’s legal counsel, follows a “threatening” Dec. 23 letter to Fisker from Washington, DC-based legal firm Kelly IP LLP on behalf of the United Kingdom-based automaker.
The letter, included in the suit, raises concerns that a recently released top view sketch of an unreleased vehicle — named the Force 1 — looks “strikingly similar to several of Aston Martin’s cars, including the DB10 car” that was featured in the recent James Bond movie “Spectre.”
The letter requests Fisker not launch the new car at the 2016 North American International Auto Show, or that he first make changes to its design before the unveiling.
“As Fisker knows, Aston Martin will not hesitate to protect its valuable rights if necessary,” ends the letter from attorney David M. Kelly, which admits that officials “do not know what the final version of Fisker’s Force 1 will look like.”
Fisker, according to a previous release, plans to unveil the car during the press conference of VL Automotive on Jan. 12. Auto show officials said they have been coordinating with VL, not Fisker.
Matthew Clarke, an Aston Martin spokesman in the U.S., declined to comment, citing the company does not comment on continuing litigation.
The suit was filed Monday in U.S. Federal Court, Central District of California, by Fisker’s legal counsel, Jonathan A. Michaels of MLG Automotive Law. Defendants include Aston Martin, its Connecticut-based North American operations and three executives: CEO Andy Palmer, Director of Global Marketing Communication Simon Sproule and Chief Creative Officer and Design Director Marek Reichman.
“We believe that in an effort to protect itself from further market erosion, Aston Martin and their three executives who run the company, conspired and devised a scheme to stomp out Henrik Fisker’s competitive presence in the luxury sports car industry,” Michaels said in a statement.
The suit claims civil extortion, asking for punitive damages of $100 million, and requests that the court declare whether the design of the Force 1 infringes on any of Aston Martin’s trademarks.
The lawsuit contends that the design of the Force 1 does not violate any of Aston Martin’s trademarks, and that Fisker has the right to manufacture, market and sell the Force 1.
Fisker was an acclaimed automobile designer for Aston Martin before starting Fisker Automotive, a California-based car company that produced the short-lived Fisker Karma, a plug-in hybrid electric car. The company declared bankruptcy in 2013.
This isn’t the first time Fisker and his former employer have met in court. In 2015, Aston Martin sued Fisker over another car design known as the “Thunderbolt.” That suit was dismissed without prejudice, according to federal records.