Robert Choi and Barley Forsman both worked at Specialized before leaving in 2010 to set up Volagi. They currently produce a single bike, the Liscio, a disc-brake-equipped endurance road bike, which we reviewed last year. It's this that's the focus of the Morgan Hill-based company's ire.
In court papers seen by Mercury News, Specialized claim the Liscio has been designed as a rival to their popular Roubaix and that Choi and Forsman stole secrets to start a competing company while still in their employment.
The pair, who both worked in the equipment rather than bike design part of the business, deny the claims and say the lawsuit, which was filed last year, is an attempt by a large company to wipe out a competitor.
The trial is due to begin this week at Santa Clara County Superior Court in California and is expected to last a fortnight. Specialized are calling for Volagi to pay substantial damages and relinquish the patents to their bike designs. Judges have rejected attempts to stop sales of the Liscio.
Speaking to VeloNews, Choi said he was surprised the dispute had reached this stage. “We really thought we had a better idea, we had a unique idea about a marketplace that they weren’t really serving," he said. "We designed a bike ideally suited for people that want to go out and do centuries and stuff. We thought it wouldn’t be a conflict. We didn’t have any information about their bike business. Nothing."
When contacted by BikeRadar, Ben Delaney, of Specialized's global marketing team declined comment. "I'm afraid I can't comment on the suit," he said. "Specialized policy is to refrain from comment about ongoing litigation involving the company."