When the Nissan ZEOD RC limped to the side of the Circuit de la Sarthe a mere five laps into this year's 24 Hours of Le Mans, we imagine that a certain American motorsports figure at least smirked a little. Don Panoz's ongoing feud with Nissan probably means he wasn't sorry to see the arrow-shaped racecar's poor showing, and now he's stepping up his campaign against his former racing partner.

For those who need a refresher, back in 2012, Panoz and Nissan teamed up to field the DeltaWing, an innovative, wedge-shaped racer, as the first entry in the 24 Hours of Le Mans' experimental Garage 56 concept. The car rapidly became a fan favorite. The Panoz/Nissan alliance didn't last, though, and before long, the DeltaWing's designer was getting a paycheck from Nissan and the ZEOD RC racer arrived. Shortly after that, Panoz began mulling over a lawsuit alleging intellectual property infringement. The American motorsports icon would eventually pull the trigger on a suit back in December of 2013.

Panoz's latest move in the ongoing feud involves an open letter in both The Nashville Tennessean, the paper that serves Nissan's US headquarters, and trade paper Automotive News. The letter calls out Renault-Nissan CEO Carlos Ghosn directly, and points out some of the similarities between the DeltaWing and the ZEOD RC, going so far as to quote the original car's designer, Ben Bowlby.

Of course, this is just the latest in a feud that has no sign of ending. We'll keep our eyes open for Nissan's response. In the meantime, hop up top and click on the lead image to read the entire open letter from Panoz to Ghosn.


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  • 39 Comments
      juststudent
      • 5 Months Ago
      It's more about who owns what as both designed by the same man.....
      axton72op8
      • 5 Months Ago
      lol that was smart
      johnbravo6
      • 5 Months Ago
      Intellectual property is really just a mask for someone out of ideas. It's pretty pathetic to try and claim IP on a frickin' triangle with wheels.
        Dmitriy Markelov
        • 5 Months Ago
        @johnbravo6
        Have you seen what Apple did with rounded ok and cancel buttons?
        futurecars
        • 5 Months Ago
        @johnbravo6
        I think the biggest question is what is written in the patent, we see a lot of cars look a like today, but it what is in the patent will determine the outcome.
      mbukukanyau
      • 5 Months Ago
      Perhaps if Panoz had worked with an American company, they would have respected intellectual property
        AP1_S2K
        • 5 Months Ago
        @mbukukanyau
        wtf, coming from somebody named Mr. Buku Kanyau.... I think I received your Nigerian email.
      jpegger
      • 5 Months Ago
      So ridiculous... Get a life, Deltawing (and a graphic designer).
      Neez
      • 5 Months Ago
      WTF, they both ripped off the Batmobile.... So what's the big deal here.
        AP1_S2K
        • 5 Months Ago
        @Neez
        hahhahaha.... i never put those two together, but you got that right. Good one Neez
      hokkaido76
      • 5 Months Ago
      Talk about sour grapes..........
      skoobey
      • 5 Months Ago
      Okay, it's obvious, it is a stolen design, but come on, you're a creative individual, so you can come up with so much more, and all this greedy bastard pictured above will be is another money obsessed snob.
        futurecars
        • 5 Months Ago
        @skoobey
        stolen a design? have you ever seen a patent, it just not about design it have have the necessary figures and measurements, well written out, It cannot go by looks alone, if nissan have a lot of difference in regard to is written in the patent, then panoz is carring a basket to court.
      Chris
      • 5 Months Ago
      So Panoz wants to completely forget the Chevy Astro III ? Really guys, you didn't invent jack
        Autoblogist
        • 5 Months Ago
        @Chris
        Well if the Chevy Astro III looked identical to the Deltawing shared most of the same running gear, you might have a point.
        Al Terego
        • 5 Months Ago
        @Chris
        I googled; expecting a minivan... I was stunned by how ahead of its time the design was.
      bK
      • 5 Months Ago
      Just because you have a patent on something doesn't mean you invented it.
        ACURA23CL
        • 5 Months Ago
        @bK
        I wonder if you're being sarcastic, because that's EXACTLY what it means.
          GoodCheer
          • 5 Months Ago
          @ACURA23CL
          Not at all. All it means is that nobody else has patented it.
          Dee Avollo
          • 5 Months Ago
          @ACURA23CL
          Explain patent trolls then.
          BipDBo
          • 5 Months Ago
          @ACURA23CL
          Patents are a commodity, a product like anything else. They can be sold and traded. If an inventor sells a patent, or the patent is filed under another name (such as a company the inventor works for) he has no legal personal claim to that patent. He has no legal right to use that intellectual design, that property personally or take it to another company. That would be like stealing equipment from one employer and bringing it to another.
          futurecars
          • 5 Months Ago
          @ACURA23CL
          There are Patents that does look or operate with some similarity, but are different, they are usually written out in description, if deltawing description is some what different from what is written, than they have no hold on nissan.
      BipDBo
      • 5 Months Ago
      The DeltaWing resembles the shape of the Chevy Astro III concept, as Chris points out below, but that was really a three wheeled car. It also resembles the Vigillante and Trivette three wheeled kit cars. There was probably at least one 4 wheeled car in prior automotive history with a narrow front track and wide rear track. The DeltaWing design, however, is more than just a narrow front track and wide rear track. Such a simple claim would be likely considered "prior art" and should not be eligible to be awarded a patent. Surely Nissan will want to make this defense to invalidate the patent if it does indeed go to courts. A utility patent, however, can be the collaboration of two or more older "prior art" ideas that are newly combined. I have not seen the Deltawing patent, but I'd bet that it is the combination of it's layout plus the torque vectoring system. There my be more features in the patent, or it might be that just these two distinguish it from prior art. The trick with a patent is that you want it just specific enough to be legally new, but vague enough to allow it to cover as many variations as possible. For instance, he would not likely limit the patent to just an ICE drivetrain, but might be specific to say that it could be powered by any kind of engine. It's possible that Nissan carefully danced around all of the patent claims and technically did not legally violate the patent. But Panoz does not want to go to courts. Patents are extremely difficult and costly to defend in court and Panoz likely doesn't have the resources to do that. Quite simply, he got screwed by Nissan is pissed about it, wants a settlement, a perhaps a bit of revenge. The bad publicity that Nissan is getting over this might be the reason that Nissan is no longer pursuing the design for the next Le Mans. Even if no settlement is reached, it might just be enough for Panoz if Nissan simply gets out of the way.
        futurecars
        • 5 Months Ago
        @BipDBo
        A well written point, could not have said it better. Now the question is what written in the patent?
      danfred311
      • 5 Months Ago
      I see that as petty and stupid. Yes it was their idea to do a "trike" style car but it's a car type, it shouldn't be a protected design. Same as 4 wheel cars shouldn't. One company makes a stationwagon, others make similar. That's the way it is. Panoz may want to hold on to it longer but that's their logical mistake. You bring something to the world and then you let it spread. Not all ideas are patentable nor should they be. And overarching it all is the brutal fact that it's an irrelevant design. Noone will drive such a config on the road and you can do a very aerodynamic 4 wheeler anyway.Outboard style like Redbull X1 or Aptera.
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