• Sep 4, 2009
2010 Toyota Prius – Click above for high-res image gallery

With every new vehicle introduced by Toyota powered by the automaker's proprietary Hybrid Synergy Drive comes a matching complaint filed by Paice LLC for patent infringement. In the latest case, Paice has filed a grievance with the U.S. International Trade Commission in Washington alleging that Toyota is violating a patent it holds for powertrains that feature both an internal combustion engine and an electric motor – better known as hybrids.

This isn't the first time these two companies have grappled over hybrid drivetrain patents. Back in 2005, Paice won an initial judgement against Toyota resulting in an order that the automaker to pay Paice monetary damages of $4.3 million, though the judge rejected a request to force Toyota to halt sales of hybrid vehicles in the U.S. at that time. Later, Toyota was ordered to pay royalties equal to a small percentage of every hybrid sold in the States.

This time, Paice is taking a slightly different tack, seeking to get importations of Toyota's super popular Prius hybrid (along with all the rest of the hybrids from Toyota and Lexus) stopped by U.S. Customs right at the docks. According to Bloomberg, it could take about 15 months for the ITC to investigate this case, so there doesn't seem to be any reason to rush out and storm your local Toyota or Lexus dealer for a new hybrid... yet.



[Source: Bloomberg]


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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 35 Comments
      • 5 Years Ago
      So, is this Paice company just a patent troll? Their website sucks horribly and doesn't show any type of product whatsoever. Just a nice list for management and patents.
        • 5 Years Ago
        This happens to leading companies all the time, just ask Apple. I don't think a month goes by when they aren't sued for something.
      • 5 Years Ago
      I'd like to see one of these idiots get disappeared by a large car company. It's put a stop to this kinda thing pretty quickly.
      • 5 Years Ago
      So a Japanese company pilfered technology? Wow, next thing you know, we'll be hearing how Japanese companies never really invent anything just, use or improve someone else's technology. Shocking... I say this (in a sarcastic tone, obviously) with full respect due, however, to the quality of their engineering and products in general. It's just that I can't think of anything Asian auto companies have really invented. I'm open to corrections...
        • 5 Years Ago
        Oh snap!... I'll give you that one. You just can't argue with something that starts every time and runs for 200k miles with just an occasional car wash and oil change.
        • 5 Years Ago
        "It's just that I can't think of anything Asian auto companies have really invented."

        Building cars that have true global demand, for one.
        • 5 Years Ago
        @Bloke: I did not know VW with his Beetle is Asian automaker.
      • 5 Years Ago
      before all the haters come out, just know that Paice is a patent troll. almost every corporation faces these leaches who request or buy patents for stuff they never intend to make just in case it becomes the next big thing; then they sue the pants off of anyone that does something similar. all they really want is a settlement, but kudos to toyota for not giving them one!
        • 5 Years Ago
        Proof of just how broken the American patent system is. Anyone who does business in the US has to deal with these trolls whose only addition to the economy is to leach of other's hard work. If all a company does is own patents then they shouldn't be considered valid. It is one thing to patent something you are making to prevent rivals from copying. It is something else to patent a theoretical technology that you haven't produced and never will just to suck money out of people who manage to actually make one. Then there is the stupid software patents. What a big joke. Disney has to fight to keep Mickey Mouse out of the public domain but people are allowed to patent things they are never going to build.
        • 5 Years Ago
        thanks for the head's up, sure sounds like trolling. I wonder how long they'll try to drag this one out?
        • 5 Years Ago
        Given that patents are designed to protect development of extant products, why is this case even being considered? Why are there trolls? Trolls like this should at least be made to prove they have made significant effort (not least, investment) into tooling up to manufacture or have manufactured a product.

        Good for Toyota running roughshod over them, but it's disappointing they're still grabbing money for doing the legal equivalent of "FRIST!"
        • 5 Years Ago
        That was my question. Every time I see article like this, I wonder if it's a patent troll. Do we know that's the case with Paice, or is it just an assumption?
        • 5 Years Ago
        They are patent trolls and I don't understand what they hope to gain by halting imports if they were getting a royalty on every one of them?? It's not like that company actually makes a competing product.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Does this impact anyone else who is making a parallel hybrid? Maybe i am remembering this wrong but i thought Toyota and Ford did some initial R&D together...
        • 5 Years Ago
        i had a prof in college who use to work for Ford and he mentioned something to that extent. but he made it sound like Ford sold most of it to Toyota and they just kept doing the R&D.
      • 5 Years Ago
      As far as i am concerned, i believe the intentions of Paice is more sinister then meets the eye. Infact, it would come as no surprise that Paice has been motivated (efforts supported) by car manufactuer / s in a bluntant effort to discredit Toyota because of the growing popularity of Toyota and Lexus hybrid vehicles particuarly in the North American market.

      For example ... General Motors publically critisied Toyota for many years because of thier movement towards hybrid technology yet today, GM promotes it owns advances in the very technology it once heavily critised.

      As far as i am concerned ... Toyota and Lexus engineer the finest hybrid vehicles that can be purchased anywhere in the world today but with all due respects to Honda and Ford.

      Keep up the good work Toyota.

      ps. Toyota has sold 40 000 new Priuses in the North American market in the past 2 months alone, abviously there are many jealous competitors. If that is the case, then perhaps they should invest more and work harder to catch-up instead of playing dirty, cowardly games.

      Pure, rotten sportsmanship !!



      • 5 Years Ago
      "Later, Toyota was ordered to pay royalties equal to a small percentage of every hybrid sold in the States."

      So am I reading this wrong or is Toyota already paying them a royalty for every one sold? And now they're just plain asking to stop the sales?
      • 5 Years Ago
      OOOoooo This should be entertaining!!!
      • 5 Years Ago
      Just because two companies came up with the same design doesn't necessarily mean that one stole it from the other. Which ever one gets the patent first has the rights to it and can royally screw the other like Paice is doing. This happened with Ford's Hybrid technology... People would wrongly say that Ford got their hybrid technology from Toyota. In reality, Ford just developed a similar design and had to license the rights from Toyota who held the patents...

      Think about the invention of the telephone... There was a big battle between Alexander Graham Bell and Elisha Gray and they both filed patents for the telephone on the same day... Graham Bell was awarded the patent and has now become famous as the inventor of the telephone... Elisha Gray, however, invented the exact same thing at the same time but I bet 99% of you have never heard of him before...
        • 5 Years Ago
        Obvious solution: joint patents. When two close-enough patents are filed within a certain period of time, say a month, they should become a single filing -- both designs in one.
      • 5 Years Ago
      I effing hate patent trolls. They're what's wrong with the US Patent and Trademark Office.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Shane seems to be great fan of Toyota.
      • 5 Years Ago
      A couple things:

      1. How is trying to stop importation going to fix anything? Toyota is gearing up their Mississippi plant to start building the Prius in the U.S. next year. All Toyota has to do is stall for a few months and the problem goes away.

      2. Assuming Paice isn't going after Ford (it wasn't mentioned and I'm too lazy to look up info on a patent troll), wouldn't the numerous cross-licensing agreements that Toyota has with Ford over hybrid technology make the suit legally moot?
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