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EV startup Karma wants DeLorean to go back in time and not steal its trade secrets

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The attempt to electrify an iconic car has hit its first speed bump. Earlier this month, electric vehicle company Karma Automotive filed a lawsuit against DeLorean Motors Reimagined, the Texas-based company that owns the trademark rights to the original DeLorean Motor Company (DMC), and four of its employees, for stolen intellectual property.

More broadly, Karma claims that DeLorean Motors Reimagined only exists because a joint venture between the two failed to materialize. In a lawsuit filed Aug. 8 in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas, Karma alleges that four DeLorean employees — CEO Joost de Vries, COO Alan Yuan, vice president Neilo Harris and chief marketing officer Troy Beetz — The company’s trade have stolen secrets it used to launch DeLorean Motors Reimagined. The company has said it plans to sell electric versions of the revived 1980s sports car.

According to the lawsuit, talks between Karma and DMC began in 2020 around the goal “to electrify DMC’s famous DeLorean vehicle, which would have helped both companies drive into the future at 145 miles per hour.” (That’s a reference to the 1985 movie) Back to the futurewho was famous with a DeLorean time machine.)

Instead, the joint venture fell through and the defendants left to form their own venture, along with Karma’s confidential information. “They secretly took confidential Karma information, materials and templates,” the lawsuit reads. “They have been actively hiding information from Karma to prevent Karma from continuing the project or finding out what individual defendants were doing. Then one by one they left Karma.”

In a statement obtained by Automotive News, de Vries said: “The potential Karma/DMC project died due to Karma’s inability to fund or manufacture the products needed to even advance discussions with DMC. DeLorean Motors Reimagined is an all-new entity with an all-new all-electric vehicle unrelated to the low-volume replica project. We expect the Court to get through this unfounded lawsuit in the near future.”

The lawsuit comes after the San Antonio City Council Approves $562,500 DMC Incentive Package in April, that paved the way for the company to file for $1.25 million in tax refunds for setting up its headquarters in the city. According to the package, DMC is to create 450 jobs by the end of 2026, with an average salary of $145,600.

Karma Automotive was founded after a Chinese company called Wanxiang bought many of the assets of bankrupt EV startup Fisker Karma. The company then rebranded itself as Karma Automotive and set up a small lineup, including a Karma-based hybrid sports car known as the Revero. The company has shared ambitions to build all-electric vehicles and sell the underlying technology, but struggles to gain a foothold.

This is not Karma’s first lawsuit. Two years ago, the company sued Lordstown Motorsalleging that the Ohio-based electric truck company has stolen trade secrets and poached employees involved in the development of infotainment technology.

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