• Feb 15, 2007


A Florida based company called Solomon Technologies was granted a patent some fifteen years ago for tech related to hybrid power-trains. I won't address whether or not this particular company can be considered a patent troll, since I haven't had a chance to read the patent in question. However, they did wait about eight years after the introduction of the Prius before filing a patent infringement suit. They filed suit against Toyota (but not Ford who has a cross-license deal with Toyota) in September 2005 and a complaint with the International Trade Commission in February 2006.

The ITC complaint sought an injunction to prevent Toyota from importing and selling hybrids in the US market. Yesterday, an administrative law judge ruled in favor of Toyota and declared that at least one of the claims in the patent was invalid. The case could steal be appealed to the full commission and also US Federal Courts. So Toyota hybrid sales in the United States are safe for the moment, but this case is likely to drag on for some time.

Thanks for the tip, Michael!

[Source: Reuters]


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  • 28 Comments
      • 7 Years Ago
      #32 (Alain): "VW, Mercedes and BMW have and do continue to compensate WWII victims that they exploited during the war years. America has recognized and continues to make amends to the Native and African-American people whose ancestors it has wronged. Mitsubishi, Mitsui, and others, including the Japanese government, fail to recognize their culpability for exploiting both Allied POWs and civilians during the war years, despite overwhelming evidence. Such striking contrast in response cannot be ignored."

      As I have stated before, the Japanese are no better and no worse than the rest of the world, in terms of racism, or in terms of compensating for wrongdoings in the past. And here are the facts that support my claim.

      The German government and German companies compensated WW2 victims not out of the goodness of their hearts. They did so only because they were forced to. According to a BBC article on Holocaust compensation: "It has already run into difficulties... Lawyers for the survivors are warning that the hard-won agreement could yet break down." To paraphrase: It was a hard-won legal agreement, which the German industry had resisted, that forced them to pay up.

      How about our own country? An Amazon.com editorial writes: the "small, poverty-stricken... Cabazon Band of Mission Indians, successfully fought a long legal battle for the right to operate [a casino] on their barren reservation... Their defeated opponents included... California and 29 other states that joined California's appeal."
      Even in progressive California, there were many who resisted to make amends, until forced to do so by the courts.

      And here is what the NPR has to say about reparations for slavery: "The U.S. government's first reparations plan... for the legacy of slavery... was quickly recanted... with no other plans for reparations."

      As the facts show, the United States and Germany have refused to voluntarily make amends for dark chapters in their history, until the courts forced them to. Just like Japan is still refusing to voluntarily make amends, unless the courts force them to. This does not make us any better than them.

      Sources:
      http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/619896.stm
      http://www.amazon.com/Return-Buffalo-Behind-Americas-Explosion/dp/0897894324
      http://www.npr.org/programs/specials/racism/010827.reparations.html

      #32 (Alain): "Today's Japanese are responsible for allowing the white-washing of their sordid history... Ask a Japanese student... and they'll lead you to believe that they were the victim!"
      If you ask any white supremacists in their trailer parks, they'll lead you to believe that they are the victims of affirmative action. And whereas the Japanese are whitewashing their sordid history, Neo-Nazis in Germany, and the Klu Klux Klan in the United States do not whitewash their sordid history. They flaunt it! And that is much worse.

      #32 (Alain): "Toyota may be innocent of intellectual property theft/infringement before proven guilty in US courts, but there's always the appeals process!"
      And until the appeals process shows otherwise, Toyota is still innocent, whether you like it or not.
      • 7 Years Ago
      Michael Karesh

      Nothing racist here, only pointing out the reality that Jap (a legitimate contraction) culture does not foster innovation, but copying. It is a collectivistic culture that merely apes things from others. They've never met a technology that didn't originate from their own minds. Oh, and speaking of racism, Japan is the most racist society on the face of the planet, but don't just take my word for it: http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/asia-pacific/4671687.stm
      I'm sure that the Chinese and Koreans (among others) would love to chime in on the matter. I hope that Toyota and Japan Inc crash and burn for their transgressions. The truth is important to disseminate and I'm merely performing a much-needed public service.
      • 7 Years Ago
      I'm not a lawyer, but I know a patent lawyer that defends companies against patent lawsuits.

      Over some drinks recently, she let slip that on one of her cases, a major discovery happened - their side discovered that some of the patents in a case she was defending were already licensed. And up until then (over a year into the lawsuit, neither side knew it).

      Apparently, especially in the cases of patents that change hands a lot, it's easy to lose track of who has licensed a patent.

      Maybe Ford paid $10k a few years ago to license a few thousand patents Company A had in their portfolio. Maybe 1 or 2 of the patents in the portfolio worried Ford, so they just licensed them all without looking at the rest (it happens, or so I'm told). Company A then goes out of business and the patents are sold off to Company B and Company C, who cherry pick the good ones and sell the rest off to Company D, E, and F. Fast forward a couple years and perhaps Company X now has the patent and it has finally become relevant to the real world. Ford still has a valid license, and they might not even know it. Toyota, having developed their hybrid system in Japan, might have totally missed this patent.

      Maybe Ford got lucky, or maybe Ford's system is just different enough
      • 7 Years Ago
      "They filed suit against Toyota (but not Ford who has a cross-license deal with Toyota) in September 2005 and a complaint with the International Trade Commission in February 2006."

      Gee, and I would have thought there would be a difference between, "this is our hybrid system" and "we are buying a hybrid system from Toyota's supplier" (and possibly just a consumer of the product i.e. Ford just buys it from the company not saying it is theirs, how does Ford have any idea a patent was infringed upon any more than if you buy a product as a consumer and maybe resell it?).

      That would be pretty bad if you get hammered for those saying you can't do your own system so you buy one and then you would get hammered again for buying it. If that sounds fair then whatever. Is the technology licensed by Ford from Toyota (or Aisin) or not?


      "The case could steal be appealed to the full commission and also US Federal Courts."

      You have "steal" on the mind (instead of "still") so you must think Toyota stole it :)
      • 7 Years Ago
      A patent is only worth the paper it's written on untill it actually holds up in court. The devil is in the details and these details only get examined 100% during an actual challenge. During a patent application, searches are done to see if similar patents exist, but believe me, it not done with such rigor.

      There is nothing improper with the patent holder to wait 8 years. It's his poragative when he wants to file suit.
      • 7 Years Ago
      Lithouse, I was thinking of you when I sent Autoblog the tip on this article.

      Toyota doesn't have to have knowingly infringed on Solomon's patent for their to be infringement. So even if they had lost this case--which they didn't--it would not mean they had stolen anything.

      Auto companies often get sued by relatively small patent holders. Sometimes they lose and have to pay up. Usually they win.

      #4 Alain: What is the basis of that racist comment? Are "Jap" brains different than those of white people, such that they are physically incapable of thinking of new things? This is a dated misconception that at this point is clearly false.
      • 7 Years Ago
      Can we lose the racist overtones? "Jap" is not a legitimate contraction. I challange you to find one single major newspaper that uses it in non-ironic reference to Japanese people. At one time (like, say, when we were at war with them) it may have been common, but this is the twenty first century.
      "In Japanese dictionaries, the term Jap is only defined as a disparaging term used against the Japanese people, like it is the case in many English language dictionaries." - Wikepedia.
      If you want to have a discussion about cultural values and innovation, fine. But don't be a troll about it.
      • 7 Years Ago
      Toyloveruk:
      Innocent till proven guilty is criminal court.
      Perponderance of evidence is civil court.

      • 7 Years Ago
      Hybrids are useless

      turbo-diesels make more sence.
      • 7 Years Ago
      #6 (Mike): "Innocent till proven guilty is criminal court. Perponderance of evidence is civil court."

      Correction: Perponderance of evidence applies to civil courts. Beyond a reasonable doubt applies to criminal courts. Innocent till proven guilty applies to both.
      • 7 Years Ago
      Note thi sis a legit company that makes electrical drives for the Marine Industry/ They have been making electricla drives since 1995 so they are not just a Patent Troll company.

      Tehya re having serious financial problems as theya re attempting to expand. They also traded away 40 percent of any potential winning in court to a company for financing to carry out the legal action.

      #16 was correct about why you go after Toyota first6. Also the contract between Toyota and Ford may indemnify Ford in any lawsuits brought about in relation to using the technology. Lawsuits are expensive so you go after only one target to get a precedent then go after the others.

      http://www.sec.gov/Archives/edgar/data/1240722/000114420406020450/v043089_10qsb.htm

      Just the facts.
      • 7 Years Ago
      From what I remember, this is an interesting patent case. Toyota's patent is for a way of combining 2 electric motor and a gas engine with a planetary gear set to provide a full powertrain with no need for a separate transmission. Solomon technology has a patent for a continuously variable transmission that uses two electric motors. Toyota's patent is clearly for a hybrid car drivetrain, but Solomon's patent is much broader than that. Maybe Solomon's patent includes the ideas expressed in Toyota's patent, maybe it doesn't, a long expensive court case (or a settlement) will decide.

      I wouldn't draw any moral conclusions from who wins or loses this patent case. Toyota was awarded a patent, so the patent examiner didn't think Toyota was infringing on Solomon's patent. Does anyone really think an engineer at Toyota read the Solomon patent, stole the idea, then had the nerve to submit a patent they knew to be invalid? I don't see Toyota risking a multi-billion dollar development project on the chance that a patent examiner will not notice that a patent is invalid.
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