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GP Week : Issue 146
Having been convicted of breaching Force India’s copyright in relation to component designs, the team now has a serious case to answer and one that the FIA will need to investigate, with the infamous Article 151c of the International Sporting Code set to return to the spotlight. The complex trial was heard over two and a half weeks in London and concerned the alleged use of Force India data in the initial design and development of 1 Malaysia UK’s (1MUK) 2010 car, the team then known as Lotus Racing and now named Caterham. The work had been carried out by wind tunnel operator Aerolab, but having been a client of Force India’s just days earlier their team of aerodynamicists and designers admitted to using confidential Force India data as a baseline for the T127. Force India had initially become suspicious when photos of the car’s wind tunnel model featured their wind tunnel tyres. Many months later, investigations had revealed that extensive copying of Force India parts had taken place, leading Judge Arnold to make his verdict of Aerolab’s breach of confidence with Force India’s intellectual property. “We started off with photographs being shown in November 2009 of a Lotus model and the thing that drew attention to that is it had our Bridgestone tyres on it, which in itself was an offence,” explained Force India’s deputy team principal Robert Fernley. “Then when we looked at it a little closer we could see similarities between our front wings. We obviously approached Lotus to find out if there had been any copying which they denied. We were not comfortable with that answer.” Aerolab’s copying affected a variety of components and component sub-assemblies, including front and rear wings, diffuser, brake duct, bargeboard, vortex generator, rear-view mirror, spine and suspension. Despite the seemingly extensive copying however, Aerolab were fined only €25,000, because the judge saw the actions taken as being a mere ‘short cut’ in the drawing of CAD models for the components. Force India plans to appeal the lenient fine however, having originally sought over £13.7m in compensation. “I'm not confident [of getting the compensation increase on appeal], but we'll certainly go through the process,” added Fernley. “The settlement is totally unrepresentative. You couldn't even design a wheel nut for €25,000. Why are we spending £15m for something we could do for €25,000?” The charge of copyright infringement against 1MUK was significantly less extensive than Aerolab’s breach however, because Aerolab had refined the designs of many of the car’s COULD AEROLAB COST CATERHAM $35 MILLION? Caterham appear to have escaped unscathed from the high court case brought against them by Force India, but buried deep within the 122-page judgement is a short paragraph of text that could end up costing Tony Fernandes’ team tens of millions of dollars in prize money and many more millions in f ines, as NAOISE HOLOHAN found out. 33 GPWEEK.com // F1 >>> NEWS FEATURE