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Things aren't looking good for Toyota in a legal battle over whether or not the Japanese automaker has infringed on a Florida-based company's hybrid drivetrain patents. A U.S. International Trade Commission judge recently ruled to deny Toyota's request to end the lawsuit brought by Paice LLC. Toyota's initial argument was that the plaintiff's patent was invalid, but so far, the courts have sided with the smaller of the two companies time and time again. Earlier in the legal battle, a judge ruled that Toyota must pay Paice LLC a royalty for every Prius, Highlander Hybrid and Lexus RX400h model sold. Paice originally wanted Toyota to halt sales of those vehicles entirely.
In response, Toyota has begun the process of arguing against the royalty amount per vehicle, while Paice has filed a new complaint over the technology present in the third-generation Prius, Hybrid Camry, Lexus RX450h and HS250h.

Paice's base complaint is over how the manufacturer is supplying torque from both the electric motor and the internal combustion engine to the drive wheels on those vehicles at the same time. The company has also gone after Ford for the design of its Fusion Hybrid and Escape Hybrid models.

[Source: Bloomberg]


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  • 31 Comments
      • 5 Years Ago
      A lot of people here seem to not understand the point of a patent. A patent is given to inventor/assignee of an invention in exchange for FULL disclosure to the public on how to make or use said invention. Now why would someone do that? Because the patent gives legal rights to the patent holder to exclude others from making/using/selling what was disclosed for a period of 17 years (this time period can vary depending on the type of patent and fees paid by the patent holder). This allows the patent holder the ability to make a profit from all the hard work and effort they put forth in creating their invention. After the period expires, anyone can make/use/sell what was disclosed without any repercussions. If patents didn't exist there would be very little innovation. Why? Because people wouldn't disclose their inventions and we'd find companies "reinventing the wheel" every time they made something to sell. Had Paige (or whoever they bought the patent from) not filed for the patent they would never have tried to sell the idea to Toyota, and Toyota would never have heard anything about the hybrid tech and most likely would have spend a lot more money and time developing the Prius. Then your $25K Prius would be more like $50K. No one would buy it then because it wouldn't be worth it and then we'd all still be looking as gas powered cars since that would still be the cheapest. Imagine this whole concept in the telecom industry. There would be no 4G, let along 3G or even 2G for that matter. Most of that stuff is invented by universities anyway so companies like ATT and Verizon would be "stuck in the mud."
      • 5 Years Ago
      I'm curious about Pierce going after Ford. If I recall, Ford and Toyota cross-licensed each other's hybrid technology to avoid patent infringement suits. So, if Toyota's technology infringed on Pierce's patent, that basically means that they then licensed someone else's intellectual property, thereby implicating Ford. I'm thinking that if Pierce is successful, Toyota is likely going to find themselves on the wrong end of a pretty large lawsuit from Ford.
        • 5 Years Ago
        I remember reading somewhere that Ford got license of the hybrid tech, and toyota got diesel engine tech from ford, for their european models. I am not sure if that is true however.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Did this company actually do anything along the lines of early work on such systems or is it just another blatant patent troll literally screaming out the need for massive patent reforms?
      • 5 Years Ago
      Fing patent trolls. This crap needs to end. It is killing innovations here in the United States - something we pride ourselves on..
        • 5 Years Ago
        So you think that if you want what someone else has made and protected they are trolls for protecting it? I guess if you have a hot wife then we can all have her because the rights of the many outweigh the rights of a few!
      • 5 Years Ago
      Has Paice actually built anything? Or just holding the paper? At some point just having an idea is not enough.
        • 5 Years Ago
        If I invent something I do not have to build it to protect my patent! Most patents are granted for a feasible idea and not a working product. If you come up with a better idea for something that you do not build should you be forced to walk away from it, not likely. Toyota like many other companies find it is cheaper to play hide and seek rather then just pay for it in the first place. Most small companies either fail to seek damages for patent infringement or never know that it happened in the fist place. The reason that Toyota got caught is because they were shown the product but told them that it had no practical application to the product that they were offering or were going to offer, Ford is fighting it because they claim that they were not shown the patent and can show that they designed there own from separate engineering and development that took place in their own labs. You can avoid paying patent costs if you can prove that you just happened to make the same device without any knowledge or help of the existing patent, this is what was claimed with the wiper eye in the 60's by GM.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Thats pretty flawed logic. Say you invent a new type of battery, it has 3x the capacity of current batteries, half the weight, and can be safely quick charged to fully in minutes. You have no where near the money to start manufacturing your new battery, so you decide to sit on the patent till you have enough money collected from investor and such to do so. Then you find out a huge corporation has started building your batteries with out your permission and you are getting squat from them for using your idea. Are you telling me you would have no problem with this happening to you because you had not actually built anything yet?
        • 5 Years Ago
        What point is that, Luis? I haven't taken Patent Law yet, so you'll have to excuse my ignorance on the matter.
      • 5 Years Ago
      I haven't been able to find a decent explanation of Paice's actual system, but this article makes it seem very different than the Prius' setup...

      http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_m0KJI/is_11_113/ai_80617833/?tag=content;col1

      "The clutch between the engine and traction motor is engaged, and electric motor used for bursts of acceleration."

      "According to tests conducted on a proof-of-concept unit, and correlated with hybrid drive models, the engine will be used just twice on the Federal Urban Driving Cycle test to recharge the batteries before shutting down again."

      Anyone find any better articles? Maybe a picture or two?
      • 5 Years Ago
      This appears to be the modern day version of the Selden Patent battle. For those who are a little fuzzy on their auto history, the Selden patent covered putting any type engine in a vehicle. Any car with an engine was supposed to pay royalties. This nonsense went on for years until Ford decided to fight. Ford had originally agreed to be part of the soon to be formed General Motors, but the patent fight was taking so much of his time that Ford pulled out of the deal to focus full time on the patent battle.
      The rest, as they say, is history…
      • 5 Years Ago
      Well that sucks. Every company now with a Hybrid runs a system similar to Toyota. Everyone except Hyundai as they have their own developed system of Hybrid tech.

        • 5 Years Ago
        Oh really? Do tell how this magical Hyundai system works that is sooo different than anyone elses.
        • 5 Years Ago
        IMA/mild-hybrid and series hybrids aren't affected by this....
      • 5 Years Ago
      Paice LLC. website shows the huge volume of legal patents filed.
      The hybrid control points are spread all over the place. It's a ..land grab.
      The technology should be "shared" for the benefit all.
      The current oil spill shows the eminent dangers we all face without electrification conversion.
        • 5 Years Ago
        Wow I guess you are a Communist then! So if you own a cow and I am hungry it is OK for me to slaughter it even if you sell the milk to make a living or it is a family pet that does not benefit you? . Its sad that people like you think that they are owed something because they were born and decide that they need what someone else owns.
        • 5 Years Ago
        If it's a patent "land grab" then ultimately they'll have a difficult time defending their claim.

        However, your idea that something new and / or original should be shared by all
        is pure socialist nonsense.

        I'm sure that if you invented something after a great deal of hard work you'd change
        your tune.
      • 5 Years Ago
      Paice LLC does not make anything. It is just a bunch of lawyers who buy patents from small companies. Some if not most of these patents are so vague that encompass almost anything. Then wait for somebody else to develop similar technology, and if the products re successful THEN they go after them.
      You can be sure these sharks would not be going after Toyota if the Prius was a flop.
      In addition the complaint was filed in some court in TX where the judge has a long history of failing in favor of the small company.
      I know this because a few years ago we sold a patent to a company like this.
      • 4 Years Ago
      Patent Infringement is a growing problem. Since law does not require manufacturers to inform patent owners that they are using the patent owner’s invention, Patent infringement can be unintentional. In most cases, it will be up to the owner of the patent to pursue Patent Litigation, a costly and time consuming process. It is always a good idea, if you are going to get a patent, that you do extensive research to make sure that no one already has a patent, and that you continue to monitor the industry to ensure that no one uses your patent with out your consent.
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