• Sep 17th 2009 at 7:00PM
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At first, Ford's SYNC wasn't much more than a way for drivers to access music on their MP3 players through their car's radio. But SYNC grew up and, in its last update, gained the ability to summon help in an emergency, access navigation and information services and, basically, match GM's OnStar.

Ford had Joseph Berry to thank for that. Past tense. Had. Back in July, Ford reportedly terminated Berry without getting him to sign over several key SYNC patents. Berry says the patents are based on ideas he came up with before joining Ford and therefore belong to him. But, he says, he'll be happy to license them to his former employer. Ford basically says, "No comment."

The patents are directly related technologies that allow SYNC to use mobile phones to access data such as weather and real-time traffic information. Berry says he's currently in talks with "several automakers" and the head of GM's OnStar division will only say that they "know who Joe Berry is."

Should Ford SYNC users be concerned about losing service? Probably not. It seems likely that as soon as Berry and all the lawyers get their cut, everything ought to be back to normal at Ford HQ.

UPDATE: Ford Communications Manager Alan Hall tells us that Ford isn't saying "No comment," actually. Here's his official statement, "We do not see any risk to current SYNC technology or further innovation and capability development. There is no chance for service disruption or capability reduction for our SYNC owners. In fact, we look forward to announcing more new SYNC applications for customers in the months ahead."

Hall also sought to clarify ownership of the SYNC brand, saying, "The "SYNC" name is a Ford trademark. It is a Ford brand, and therefore cannot be used by anyone else, including being applied to the Microsoft Auto operating platform. The exclusivity contract with Microsoft for the underlying Auto operating system expired in November of 2008, so they can provide the software to other companies, which includes the base capabilities of Bluetooth and USB connection for voice control. But, all the other applications - 911 Assist, Vehicle Health Report, and Traffic, Direction & Information - are Ford developed."

[Source: Detroit News]

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    • 1 Second Ago
      • 6 Years Ago
      I know this is nit-picking but you cannot patent an idea only the way it is executed
      • 6 Years Ago

      For anyone who was wondering who owns what?

      While it is a Microsoft system, the name of the system is a Ford patent, and Ford name. Its their property and not Microsoft.

      So Microsoft cannot go around marketing their system and using the name SYNC as that part of the property doesn't belong to them.

      I never knew this and was only told this at my SYNC training seminar back when it was being introduced. The instructor was VERY GOOD at explaining the features and about the lineage of "who owns what".
        • 6 Years Ago
        Like he said, it's a Microsoft system. MS developed the OS and the human-machine interface. Ford brands it as SYNC and applies it to their hardware (or more likely, a Ford supplier does it). How difficult is that to understand?
        • 6 Years Ago
        Can you explain to me what Microsoft had to do with the development of the system then? Did Ford just want to use their name and pay them for it, or what?
      • 6 Years Ago
      In the end Joes lawyers will make $400 million each, and Joe will get a coupon worth $500 off a new Ford vehicle.
      • 6 Years Ago
      Not much actual info in this article. A quick search of the USPTO turns up two patents for Joseph Jamal Berry in Dearborn, MI:



      Both of those patents are owned by AT&T, not Mr. Berry. And the patents themselves are very generic. I've also got to think that Ford made him sign a non-compete agreement when they hired him. He doesn't really have a leg to stand on.
      • 6 Years Ago
      Sounds like Berry has Ford over a barrel. Gotta love it!
      • 6 Years Ago
      I guess it will be settled amicably.
      • 6 Years Ago
      The exclusivity agreement, that would be expiring, would apply to the original version of Sync only. All subsequent upgrades also carry the exclusivity agreement............ for the same set period of time.

      Thus, while others could license the software, they would always be a few years behind Fords version.
      • 6 Years Ago
      I think the real concern is the potential trademark dispute with *NSYNC.
      • 6 Years Ago
      Doesn't Ford's exclusive use of the system expire soon? I thought I remembered reading that Ford got to use the system exclusively for X years, and then any automaker could license it from Microsoft. And I thought that happened soon, like 2010 or so.
      • 6 Years Ago
      An auto manufacturer getting sued over a patent dispute? Say it aint so!

      Also, doesn't MS own Sync and Ford licenses it from them?
        • 6 Years Ago
        Microsoft will just call it Windows Auto.
        • 6 Years Ago
        Technically Microsoft developed the platform Ford developed the application though there is more to it than that. Obviously there is a certain amount of cross pollination between the two groups sharing expertise. Microsoft is supplying more than just an OS here but it is not all Microsoft. Other automakers have licensed the Microsoft platform but that does not mean they get Sync.
      • 6 Years Ago
      Ford is so screwed. This is standard operating procedure for them, ripping people off, but they're going to get theirs.

      And SYNC is their primary market advantage, the lipstick on a pig of mediocre cars, gas-guzzling trucks, and epic cash burn. Chapter 11, here we come!
        • 6 Years Ago
        You want proof about J.D. Power? Here's your proof, "domestic" fanbois:


        • 6 Years Ago
        300m out of 20g per Q is epic cash burn? :oP
        you are epic clown
        • 6 Years Ago
        I agree, J, GM sucks even more than Ford. But they also have the entire U.S. Treasury at their disposal. Tough for Ford to compete with.

        And Honda, Toyota, Nissan, and Volkswagen CONTINUE to be so far ahead of Ford that they again, aren't even in the same league.
        • 6 Years Ago
        It is when you're in debt and mortgaged up to your eyeballs.

        Ford MIGHT have survived had Obambi not bailed out Government Motors and Crisislyer, but how can Ford compete against rivals with the deep, deep pockets of the federal government and little debt? Answer that.

        They are their primary competition (NOT Honda or Toyota, who are in a whole different league).
        • 6 Years Ago
        Oooh dangerous ground there Yzeron, idiots like Matt and Brian will try to say that Ford took a bailout too. They don't understand the diffrenece between a bailout of billions of dollars that went to GM and Chrysler that went bankrupt two weeks later, and Ford getting a low intrest loan (yes they pay intrest) to accelerate the process of their already best in the industry advanced fuel tech (see battery Focus, Hydrogen Fusion, Hydrogen Edge, best-in-class MPG Fusion Hybrid).
        • 6 Years Ago
        Are you kidding me? Sync is hardly the only thing that gives Ford, Lincoln, Mercury an advantage over manufacturers. My family drives both Ford and Subaru. Both excellent manufacturers but my hat goes off to Ford.

        Honda and Toyota especially are no more advanced than any of the big three. Least of all Ford. Ford competes head to head with them. Ford has a similar reputation as a solid automaker and a LEADER in the technology. Ford is one of the most innovative manufacturers.

        Pure stupidity. You sound extremely closed minded. All of your posts are laced with opinion with absolutely no facts. Even someone that hates Ford would have to concede their progress and heritage.

        My opinion; Ford will be the best of the best in a few years time. They will be bigger and better than Honda or Toyota. Their quality will CONTINUE to be better than the competition. The only difference will be that they are an American legacy!

        As a Lincoln Mercury sales consultant, I can tell you that my biggest competition is Honda. Toyota is right behind. I always thought Toyota should be our most competitive brand but I think our local Toyota dealer’s reputation prevents that. Honda is connected with one of our area’s largest dealer chains and they do a very good job.

        Oh...didn't Toyota take a bailout from the Jap Gov?
        • 6 Years Ago
        I don't even know where to begin with a COMPLETE idiot like you...

        Are you serious? do you have any idea how stupid you sound when you bring up your 80s and 90s stories? You are like the perfect example of an idiot that will blindly walk into a Toyota dealer and buy a Camry without looking at say... a Fusion, which happens to be better than the Camry at pretty much everything. It's because of idiots like you that the Fusion isn't selling as well as the Camry. When my friend got a new Camry back in May I told them that they could have gotten a Fusion with more power, better mileage, and more stuff for less than their Camry and all they could say is "damnit". Some people are stupid and they blindly go and buy a Camry and realize their mistake when it's pointed out to them, and some people are completely retarded and ignorant like you that will take the fact that the Fusion is better at everything than the Camry and change the subject to talk about .... oh yeah there isn't anything good to say about Toyota at this point, it's just grasping at straws.

        I don't know how you could think that Toyota is ahead of Ford at all. There is a reason that Ford's sales are up, while Toyota's sales are down. Ford packs more quality and features in their cars than Toyota could shake a stick at. The 09 Fusion is 5 "power circles" ahead of the Camry according to J.D. Power, just imagine how far ahead the Fusion will be when they give ratings for the 2010 model. Pretty much every car in Ford's lineup beats a comprable Toyota, ESPECIALLY in J.D. Power's APEAL study, which if you didn't figure out (and my guess is that you didn't) ranks how appealing cars are based on performance, comfort, features, and style. It's kinda funny when you look at because Toyota as a whole comes 32nd in "Overall Performance and Design" while Ford comes in 16th (the only non-luxury brand ahead of Ford is VW), Toyota comes 29th for Performance while Ford comes in 16th again, Ford comes in 19th for Comfort while Toyota sits in the back at 33rd, Ford comes in 7th overall for Features while Toyota comes DEAD LAST at 37th, and lastly Ford comes in 20th for Styling while Toyota again comes DEAD LAST at 37th. Though I must give Toyota credit, last year they came dead last in 3 out of the 5 categories, they must be on some sort of roll.... yeah.
        • 6 Years Ago
        I get ultra-low ratings because this site is filled to the brim with Detroit fanbois, trumpeting the "domestics" non-stop.

        But the consumer tells a different story. They continue to choose the transplants over the "domestics". Year after year after year after year.

        I've owned Detroit cars before (in the '80s and early '90s) and I got burned I don't know HOW many times with them. The last one I owned was a '91 Ford Tempo AWD. Piece of CRAP, one of many. Never again.
        • 6 Years Ago
        LOL J.D. Power studies? They're completely worthless.

        It's all based on how much money the various brands give J.D. Power so J.D. Power can tell them exactly how to cheat the test. Plus initial "appeal" doesn't mean anything, what really matters is how good is the car five years from now? Fusions will be falling apart, and Camrys will take a licking and keep on ticking. Then Ford will change the name on it's next mid-size, hoping no one will notice. Meanwhile, the Camry will continue to be the Camry, and have nothing to apologize for.
        • 6 Years Ago
        Oh, I forgot to mention Chrysler, but Chrysler is dead. They're going to be selling Fiats in a few years, probably not even re-badged and sell off the pickups and minivans to someone else (probably trucks to Nissan and minivans to Volkswagen). Whether or not they will do better than they did in the '80s remains to be seen.
        • 6 Years Ago

        What the F are you talking about?

        Chrysler could survive selling only minivans, Dodge Rams, and Jeep Wranglers. Seriously.

        Nissan cancelled their plan to start selling rebadged Rams; it's ridiculous that Volkswagen has decided to extend the rebadging of minivans.

        Chrysler, as an independent unit, has been dead for a long time. Some of their vehicles still have a lot of life. Even if they do continue merged with Fiat, so what? It would be wisest of them to stop making cars if they can't make one that people want to buy (and that can make them money).

        Oh, and about the 80s...yes, Chrysler did some heinous things in the 80s. However, Chrysler also did some amazing things at the end of the 80s. If they do again what they did then, then the automotive world will again be in awe -- just like it was when the Viper, the Intrepid (revised), the Dakota (revised), and the Ram (revised) came out in the early-mid nineties.
        • 6 Years Ago
        Oh and "American" legacy? Aren't all Lincolns (except the Navigator) based on Volvo and Mazda platforms? Moron. Be sure to tell your prospects all about the "American" MKZ, based on a Mazda platform and assembled by Mexicans.
        • 6 Years Ago
        There's another old adage that applies here: "You can't reason with an unreasonable person". Brian refuses to argue with any merit or facts, and his "the imports are better" shouting is obviously seen as having no weight behind it (notice the ultra low ratings his comments always get).

        I swear the guy works at a Swiss Cheese factory, for his arguments have just as many holes and stink to boot.
        • 6 Years Ago
        Matt showed me that once, it still makes me laugh. It's a shame you just brought that up because you've just lowered yourself to Matt's extreme level of retardation.

        Not only is that "evidence" against J.D. Power's Initial Quality study (and I brought up how Toyota has it's ass handed to it in every category by Ford for the APEAL study, though in Quality Ford is one slot behind Toyota for overall quality, and their reliability study is allover the place with Toyota way behind Ford in some categories and Ford slightly behind Toyota in others) but the reason that the inital quality study is so "corrupt" is because they only use the first 90 days for it (umm isn't that why they call it the "Initial" quality study?) and they complain because J.D. Power uses more than just solid quality and looks at other things like how easy things are to use like Nav screens and SYNC. It took my parents 2 weeks to figure out that the automatic memory was controlled by the keys on their Cadilac, that's annoying and it takes away from your inital satisfaction (especially because the delaer didn't know either), just like you wouldn't be very happy if you get a brand new car that's missing 3 buttons from the radio (see 1985 Toyota Celica).
        • 6 Years Ago
        ChEvY FTlolzorsW RIGHT??? CAMERO!!1! VO1T!!

        "Sync = primary market advantage"?

        How about GM/Chrysler? Over the past several years, those two competitors create market advantage.

        "Gas-guzzling trucks"? They guzzle the same as the competition.

        You want to talk about pigs? Tell me about the Malibu.
        • 6 Years Ago
        Brian: Cite your source. If JD Power is so corrupt and is in the take with the automakers, you should be able to provide some EVIDENCE. Yeah, I thought so.
        • 6 Years Ago

        There is an old addage that states:

        Better to say nothing and be thought a fool, than opening your mouth (or keyboard) and removing all doubt!!

        Is nothing any car maker does good enough for you??

        • 6 Years Ago
        Oh so where is your proof that J.D. Power is "worthless" and "paid off by Ford". Toyota lost... well fell on their ass is more like it... so it has to be some sort of conspiracy? Oh because the Fusion that gets 4.5/5 circles for reliability will be falling apart while the 5/5 circle Camry will " take a licking and keep on ticking"? I didn't know half a circle made that much difference, unless it's half a circle in a bunch of other categories that give the Fusion 5 more overall than the Camry (and that's for the 09, just wait for the ratings on the 2010).
        • 6 Years Ago
        "Yzeron - My opinion; Ford will be the best of the best in a few years time. They will be bigger and better than Honda or Toyota. Their quality will CONTINUE to be better than the competition."

        Ford is already well above average in the JD Power 2009 Vehicle Dependability Study.
        Other "crap" brands showing their world-class dependability are Buick at NUMBER ONE, Mercury at number five, Lincoln at eight, Cadillac at nine, Ford at thirteen and Chrysler at sixteen. All above or well above industry average. Even Chevrolet comes in just under industry average and quite comfortably above Nissan. Yeah, sounds like the domestics are really crappy. :rolleyes:

        What else have we... Volkswagen at number two, Mazda at five and Scion (Toyota) at seven FROM THE EFFING BOTTOM!

        • 6 Years Ago
        Toyota has a definite leg-up on the American competitors -- simply in the form of the Prius. If they would pull their heads out of their asses and put that drivetrain in their other models, they would make quite a few more dollars.

        As for Nissan and Honda, they've both lost a step in a major way. Perhaps you've heard of the CrossTour? As for Nissan, Carlos G is staying on because they have admittedly lost their market advantage (consider Nissan in 1999 versus Nissan now). (The GTR is an outlier in the Nissan picture.)

        Volkswagen...what have they been up to? Well, they tried to deny that electric technology is a major part of the future. That didn't work out so well. They have diesels, but they're expensive and not rated exceptionally well when compared with Ford's only competitor -- the Fusion Hybrid.

        GM does not have the entire treasury at its disposal. Even if it did, Ford has been reviewed as doing exceptionally well in tough times. It is Ford, not GM, Honda, Toyota, Volkswagen, or Nissan that is viewed to be taking advantage best of the auto climate due to the freshness of their product and the timing with which they started to make changes.
        • 6 Years Ago
        Keep dreamin' :)
        • 6 Years Ago
        AND a Citation AND a Vega as well.

        And my friend's 1998 Malibu. Detroit is garbage. The transplants kicked their ass, too bad Obambi didn't let it lead to it's obvious conclusion (REAL bankruptcy, not taxpayer-funded "soft" bankruptcies).
        • 6 Years Ago
        Your basis for hating detroit is a 1991 Ford Tempo? WTF? Yeah, keep telling yourself that Autoblog is full of Detroit fanboys. Say it enough and you'll start believing it. Oh wait....
        • 6 Years Ago
        J, I was talking about FIAT in the '80s, not Chrysler!

        The original minivans were good and innovative in the '80s for Chrysler...but like a typical Detroit car maker, Chrysler let them rot on the vine and got left in the dust by the transplants.
      • 6 Years Ago
      Man oh man! You would think Ford would've learnt by now after ripping off the intermittent wiper guy. When will these yo-yos get it though their heads that ripping people off gets you nowhere. But then again, I guess they have had a hundred years of practice.
        • 6 Years Ago
        Apples to tulips. In the intermittent wiper case, Dr. Kearns actually held the patents. Mr. Berry holds nothing. Look it up. He was a contract worker for Ford and any IP he developed for them belongs to Ford.
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