Musk's SolarCity sued for intellectual property theft

The company is being accused of gaining a business advantage through stolen "Shingling" technology.
Written by Charlie Osborne, Contributing Writer

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Elon Musk's SolarCity has been accused of stealing intellectual property to get ahead in the renewable energy industry.

In a lawsuit filed in a San Francisco court on Monday, Khosla Ventures and SunPower subsidiary Cogenra Solar have accused the company of intellectual property theft relating to Cogenra's "Shingling" technology.

The technology, as described in the firm's patent, describes a way to mount solar cells in an array so they overlap each other but remain supported, which in turn improves the efficiency of the panels.

As noted by Reuters, Khosla and Cogenra claim that SolarCity misused Cogenra's trade secrets and manufacturing processes -- alongside other intellectual property -- to give itself a headstart in producing shingled-cell solar modules, which in turn gave them an unfair business advantage.

The information allegedly stemmed from Silevo, which was acquired by SolarCity after confidential secrets had been shared with the company.

"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," the complaint reads.

In retaliation, SolarCity says that the layering solar cell technology was independently developed to improve the quality of the company's solar panels.

SolarCity was snapped up by Elon Musk's Tesla for $2.6 billion in August to advance Tesla's dreams of not only manufacturing electric vehicles but also expanding into the renewable energy market.

While SolarCity calls the lawsuit "factually and legally baseless," Khosla and SunPower said SolarCity's claim is false and the firms "look forward to the legal process taking its course."

Cogenra is seeking compensation and a sales ban on products using the disputed technologies.

Earlier this month, SolarCity raised $305 million in the company's second cash equity transaction.

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