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Friday, 10 March 2017

Hybrid patent wars

In the US, Ford is under investigation by the International Trade Commission following a patent infringement complaint by Paice LLC (the name an acronym for Power-Assisted Internal Combustion Engines), a hydrid technology company based in Maryland which owns what are rated as four of the most influential hybrid technology patents, and the Abell Foundation, a charity that supports progressive start-up businesses and which co-owns the patents. They allege that the vehicle manyfacturer is importing hybrid electric vehicles and components that infringe their patents. Section 337 of the Tariff Act 1930 prohibits the import of infringing products, and is often used by patentees as an alternative to litigation - although Paice have been down that road too a couple of years ago, and their claims were thrown out.
The investigation could result in Ford being prevented from shipping Mexico-made cars into the USA. As if making cars in Mexico was not already controversial enough!
Paice worked with Ford between 1999 and 2004, providing (according to Automotive News) "detailed modeling and component design" - which seems to fall rather a long way short of creating anything for which a patent might be granted. Perhaps the argument is that Paice's work had its own patented technology embedded in it: in any event, Ford eventually decided not to take a licence to use Paice's technology - and instead struck a deal with Toyota to use its technology. Paice has also been embroiled in litigation with Toyota, which it claims received its technology from Ford, and in 2010 Ford reached a settlement with Paice over that technology. Hyundai and Kia are also accused of infringements by Paice. Ford has also filed 25 legal challenges to Paice patents in the US Patent and Trademark Office.
Hybrid vehicle technology is going the same way as mobile phones - soon the companies involved will be spending more time suing each other for patent infringements than making cars.
Griffith Hack report
Automotive News
Paice press statement

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