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March 21st, 2012
Aerolab’s managing director Jean-Claude Migeot says he is pleased to have proved his company’s innocence following a long-running legal dispute with Force India regarding the use of intellectual property.
Aerolab had been a partner of Vijay Mallya’s squad, but terminated the relationship in 2009 over unpaid bills.
It then partnered with Caterham F1 – then Lotus – to design the T127 – which proved the centre of the legal dispute as Force India alleged its intellectual property had been systematically copied. At the same time Aerolab pursued the team through the courts with regard to the unpaid bills.
The protracted disputes were settled on Wednesday, when Mr Justice Arnold said Force India had come “nowhere near” proving systematic copying – and at the same time settled in favour of Aerolab’s pursuit of €850,000.
“It’s been such a long story – so long, and so big, for such a small issue – but I am glad to say it’s over,” Migeot told AUTOSPORT. “The judge made his conviction on the right side – putting things right is always very satisfactory.
“We are pleased that the truth is out, which was the main difficulty before Force India was trying to demonstrate a huge conspiracy between Team Lotus, Mike and myself, which actually never existed and was never found in any evidence.
“We always thought it was a huge trial for such a short matter, a nonsense. Force India was adamant it had a multi-million case though and there was no way of even opening a discussion and it unfortunately ended in the courts.
“It was a big story brought up to delay the payment they owed us from 2009 – they had hoped to find the perfect excuse.”
Migeot’s company were ordered to pay Force India €25,000 in compensation for the copying of some intellectual property rights, an act that was deemed an ‘opportunistic shortcut’ by the judge.
“When we found this, we admitted it – this is all miles before the trial,” Migeot said. “But they didn’t want to believe it was so little.
“When a customer is finished their contract they have to give a notice period, so when you come down to the last day everything is clean – all the computers are wiped.
“The trouble is I had to throw Force India out due to non-payment, then we started working for Lotus basically the day after – we had no time to clean the computers and in this overlap a few people kept some of their studies
“It’s a very fine line between using your knowledge and using someone else’s IP, which we don’t do. We have contractors and consultants – and people come to us because we have the know-how and experience.”