Calif. company that created electric motorcycle honoured as top invention sues NJ co-founder

NEWARK, N.J. - A California company that makes electric motorcycles featured in Time magazine's list of top inventions for 2013 is suing one of its co-founders, a New Jersey man who was terminated from the company last month.

The lawsuit filed this month in U.S. District Court contends San Francisco-based Mission Motorcycles has the right to buy back most of Vincent Ip's 300,000 shares of company stock, under an agreement Ip signed this year. Ip was terminated in November for what the lawsuit characterizes as unprofessional behaviour, including physically threatening one of his co-founders.

Ip, a New Jersey resident, has rejected the company's claim and plans to countersue, his attorney, Lisa Solbakken, said Monday.

Solbakken said the stock agreement was "the product of a fraudulent scheme to dilute my client's interest in the company."

Ip didn't return a phone message Monday.

Mission Motorcycles was founded by Ip and partners Mark Seeger and Andrew Ng this year, according to the lawsuit. Its website lists two models, the Mission RS and the Mission R, which it calls "the world's most advanced production electric motorcycle."

In its feature, "The 25 Best Inventions of the Year 2013," Time called the Mission R "a beast of a machine" that tops out at 150 mph with zero tailpipe emissions. Its price starts at about $30,000, according to the company's website.

According to the lawsuit, the three co-founders each invested $30,000, in exchange for 300,000 shares of company stock, and later signed a stock restriction agreement that gave the company the right to repurchase the stock of any shareholder in the event the shareholder's employment was terminated. The agreement also provided a vesting plan so that increasingly smaller portions of the founder's stock would be subject to repurchase.

Ip's relationship with his partners deteriorated over time and eventually led to his termination in November, according to the suit.

"Among other things, Defendant Ip threatened Mr. Seeger with physical violence in the workplace," the suit contends.

The company contends Ip has 275,000 shares of stock it has the right to buy back under the restricted stock agreement. Ip rejected that and has indicated he considers the agreement "null and void," the suit claims.

The lawsuit seeks to have the stock agreement declared enforceable.

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