• Jun 1, 2010
Toyota has, once again, failed to shake the long-looming hybrid patent infringement case brought forth by Paice LLC. In this latest development, a U.S. International Trade Commission judge dismissed Toyota's bid to end the lawsuit, continuing a trend. Toyota has long argued that the suit filed by Paice is invalid and should be dismissed, but the courts have routinely ruled otherwise. An earlier court ruling forced Toyota to pay royalties for several of its vehicles which encroach upon hybrid patents filed by Paice. Toyota currently pays royalties to Paice for every Prius, Highlander Hybrid and Lexus RX400h model sold. And though Paice originally wanted Toyota to halt sales of the listed models, it now appears that Paice is satisfied with the royalty agreement.

The drama doesn't end there. Toyota is now back in the courts arguing against the royalty amounts paid per vehicle, while Paice has filed yet another complaint against Toyota which alleges that the automaker has also infringed upon patents with technology found in the third-generation Prius, Hybrid Camry, Lexus RX450h and HS250h. This fiasco has been ongoing for years now with no end in sight.

[Source: Business Week]


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    • 1 Second Ago
  • 36 Comments
      • 4 Years Ago
      "An internal combustion engine and an AC induction motor are arranged to supply torque through a controllable torque transfer unit to the driving wheels of the vehicle. The motor is driven at relatively high voltage, relatively high frequency, and relatively low maximum current. Energy stored in batteries is transformed into AC drive pulses of appropriate frequency and shape by a solid state switching unit comprising metal oxide semiconductor (MOS) controlled thyristors. No variable gear ratio transmission is required by the vehicle of the present invention, as the AC electric motor provides adequate torque at low RPM. Inefficiencies particularly inherent in automatic transmissions are thus eliminated."

      Controllable Torque Transfer Uunit is what Toyota calls the power split device (PSD).. everything else matches what Toyota is doing except they use DC permanent magnet motors.


      "A microprocessor receives control inputs from the driver of the vehicle and monitors the performance of the electric motor and the internal combustion engine, the state of charge of the battery, and other significant variables. The microprocessor determines whether the internal combustion engine or the electric motor or both should provide torque to the wheels under various monitored operating conditions. Typically, the electric motor operates under battery power during low speed operation, e.g., in traffic, during reverse operation, or the like. "

      Exactly what Toyota is doing.

      "As the road speed increases, the internal combustion engine is started, using torque provided by the electric motor through the torque transfer unit, such that no separate starter is required. The internal combustion engine is sized to operate near maximum efficiency during steady state cruising on the highway, at between about 35 and 65 mph; at these times the electric motor is not powered. When necessary for acceleration or hill climbing, the electric motor is operated to add its torque to that provided by the internal combustion engine. Under braking or coasting conditions, the electric motor may be operated as a generator to charge the batteries."

      Again exactly what toyota is doing.

      "More particularly, according to the invention, the internal combustion engine is operated only under the most efficient conditions of output power and speed. When the engine can be used efficiently to drive the vehicle forward, e.g. in highway cruising, it is so employed. Under other circumstances, e.g. in traffic, the electric motor alone drives the vehicle forward and the internal combustion engine is used only to charge the batteries as needed. No transmission is required, thus effecting a very substantial saving in both weight and cost."

      Again the same.. a critical aspect of the Prius is that no transmission is used, a great savings and huge improvement in reliability.

      One thing not covered in the patent is that when the ice is running at the wrong rpm, one of the motors bleeds off excess power and feeds it to the other motor to drive the wheels.. basically an electronic CVT with no clutches or moving pulleys. It allows the ICE and wheels to turn at different RPMs.

      The patent was granted, thus the office of patents found merit with it at the time.
      • 4 Years Ago
      These patent trolls must be stopped. Our system REALLY needs reform. There are hundreds of companies that exist *just* to capitalize on things like this, pre-emptively filing patents for anything they can think of.

      As if we needed more things hurting innovation.
        • 4 Years Ago
        Too bad they weren't looking to make money on anything other than suing people.

        So basically come up with an idea that you think someone else is going to do eventually.. patent it.. wait for them to do it.. then sue.

        How honorable is that? It's milking our system. Plain and simple.

        http://www.paice.net/paices-patents/paices-patented-hyperdrive-technology

        They literally have never produced anything, and nobody has bought anything from them.
        Their entire timeline consists of them basically trying to bilk Toyota since day one.

        They have not lost a dime on their technology since they have no customers.
        • 4 Years Ago
        if someone stole YOUR idea, and made MILLIONS OF DOLLARS, wouldn't YOU want to be compensated? toyota has stolen other ideas in the past - usually without compensating the inventor (i.e. variable valve timing) - so, u aren't a "troll", just cuz u want to be treated fairly!
        • 4 Years Ago
        'This is how a patent troll typically operates'

        They are so far removed from acting like a patent troll that the concept would't even exist if Paice was an example of an offender.

        'No technology for license.'

        Sure they do, and they are perfectly willing to.


        • 4 Years Ago
        I know they've been trying to sue Toyota forever, and as far as the patent infringement goes, i'm not doubting that at all.

        But where's the proof that they talked with Paice, backed out of a deal, and stole the tech?
        • 4 Years Ago
        Paice is hardly a troll, it's not some IP holding company that bought a bunch of patents to sit on, they spend years developing and testing this technology.
        • 4 Years Ago
        ^---- EPIC AGREE.

        Patent trolling is hitting biotech and medical industry the worst. With companies making speculative patents and not even doing any research at all. Don't even get me started on stem cells.

        Want to do something new? pay one of these companies royalties *forever*.

        People with innovative new ideas do not have the time or gumption to do the job they do. It's really killing us. Companies like Paice are always ahead of the game.

        Patents were invented to shield inventors from theft, so that the inventors could profit off their work without fear. In this case, these companies are not looking to profit off their inventions, or produce, demonstrate, or manufacture a single thing.

        Liscensing is fine with me, but what they are liscensing is a patent, not the actual work needed to make a hybrid system function in real life. Toyota has done all that footwork... all that Paice has done is sit on a well thought out patent and tried to profit on it by suing.
        • 4 Years Ago
        letstakeawalk: is that Paice's claim? or is it well documented that this happened?

        This happens in the tech world all the time, hence my swiftness to mark them as a patent troll. They certainly look like a textbook case.

        Hey, i could be wrong.
        • 4 Years Ago
        It was documented enough that a jury found that Toyota had indeed infringed the patent. And then, another jury backed up the first jury.



        (...waiting for Joeviocoe to tell me that this is another example of fallacy ~ appealing to authority...)
        • 4 Years Ago
        Neptronix appears to be the troll here
        • 4 Years Ago
        Add me to the crowd of people who think our patent system does more harm to innovation than anything else.

        A company should not be able to patent an idea unless they take it to market and sell it. A patent should last 5 years tops unless a company is selling more than 100,000 units of whatever it is. Then it should last 10 years tops with no possibility of extension.

        And these idiots who have patented pieces of the human genome should be laughed out of the lab. The 1968 moon treaty states that the moon is a resource owned jointly by all humans. But these morons have been able to patent our DNA? What in this world should rightly be community property more than our own DNA?!?
        • 4 Years Ago
        Also, notice that they have nothing for sale. No technology for license. No business model other than trying to sue people.

        And all their headlines center around suing Toyota and how many patents they have.

        This is how a patent troll typically operates. These companies do not deserve protection, they are bottom feeders. The tech world is full of them.
        • 4 Years Ago
        Our patent process is a mess. Really, there are firms that consist of engineers who search already filed patents and write up all possible variations and next step developments and file them. Then the attorney section files the lawsuits against rich companies like Toyota who had the original patent and are just further developing their product. Nice little profit engine. On the other hand, some legitimate companies like Minolta lasted as long as they did because they had some good engineers(terrible marketing) whose patents and cross licensing to other makers like Nikon and Canon supported them for years. Then there are things like the battery technology reported in Who Killed the Electric Car that GM supposedly gave to Chevron never to be heard of again.

        Seems to me it should be fixed so that real innovators could profit from their creativity, but their right to it should expire in short order if it has not been marketed. Say, 3 to 5 years for an unused patent and 10 years for one that is used. Then the unused one could become public domain to anyone with a fair statutorily determined licensing fee paid to the innovator who was unable to profit from it before. I haven't a clue as to how to stop the lawyer run patent mills though.
        • 4 Years Ago
        "While Paice approached Toyota on a number of occasions to explore such an arrangement, Toyota declined to work with Paice. However, Toyota later developed hybrid vehicles that rely on Paice’s technology to make them commercially viable. A 2005 jury in federal court found that Toyota had infringed Paice’s ‘970 patent. The jury’s decision was affirmed on appeal in 2007."

        Paice tried to license their technology to Toyota, but Toyota turned them down. Then, Toyota began to utilize the same technology that Paice had shown them.

        Neptronix - I'd back away from calling them patent trolls. Paice has the patents - they have no obligation to share them. But in no way does Paice's use or disuse of their patents allow for other companies to infringe them. Paice did the groundwork, and deserve credit (including financial remuneration) for what they have created.
        • 4 Years Ago
        "With support from Mtech, Dr. Severinsky founded Paice (Power Assisted Internal Combustion Engines) in 1992. Later that year, Paice filed a patent application covering his concepts for a hybrid vehicle and was issued U.S. Patent No. 5,343,970 (the ‘970 patent) in 1994. The mission of Paice was to develop hybrid vechicle technology and promote its adoption throughout the automotive industry.

        This patent represented a groundbreaking technology that allowed hybrid vehicles to bring efficiency – and, therefore, commercial viability – to hybrid vehicles. That technology, recognized as one of the world’s most dominant hybrid patents, recently earned Dr. Severinsky the prestigious Thomas A. Edison Patent Award from the American Society for Mechanical Engineers. The award, presented in November 2009, recognizes the creativity of a patented device or process that has the potential of significantly enhancing an aspect of mechanical engineering. We believe this award recognizes the hard work and extensive research of Dr. Severinsky and his Paice team."
        • 4 Years Ago
        Many legitimate companies do not sell a physical product. Instead, they license the result of their research and knowledge, or are commissioned to conduct research by other companies. Their product is knowledge, and patents help these companies recoup the cost of conducting the research and development that produced that knowledge.
        • 4 Years Ago
        From the Paice website: "Paice showed automakers in 1999 how its patented technology could reduce gas consumption by 50 percent and maintain driving performance. The key: Paice’s use of high voltage in a hybrid vehicle."

        Hmm, turns out Toyota started Prius sales in Japan in 1997, and had shown their hybrid prototypes several years earlier. "high voltage" isn't new, and was in the Prius from the beginning. So it sounds like Paice was "trying to show them" how to do what they had already been making and selling for years. In fact, considering the dates, it looks like the founders of Paice overheard what Toyota had planned, and rushed home to file a local patent so they could later sue. Paice did have some earlier patents in 1984, but they were very vague and not specific to the Toyota design, and one of their 1999 patents seemed totally clueless to the advantages of the planetary CVT, as it called for a regular starter motor and a 2 speed transmission in their "hybrid car" design.

        They didn't even fully understand what they had patented. Patent trolls, by definition.
        • 4 Years Ago
        Paice seems to operate like a mafia gang of high-tech extortionists.
      • 4 Years Ago
      Enlighten me: what is the Paice LLC patent on? It certainly cannot be on the idea of a generic hybrid drivetrain?

      Sincerely, Neil
        • 4 Years Ago
        it seems to be the prius power split arrangement http://www.google.com/patents?id=5g0eAAAAEBAJ&dq=5343970
        they have 11 patents but the others seem trivial

        easily fixed. just use plugin series hybrid config. the power split device is stupid anyway. can never drive properly as battery electric.

        the patent system is based on a sound idea but implemented by an army of super idiots and is a source of great problems and extremely little benefit to society. it should be entirely abolished. corporations file for oceans of patents in the hope of gaining leverage to balance off law suits from other corporations that filed oceans of trivial patents to gain leverage on others. kodak filed and got a patent for displaying thumbnail picture in a digital camera. you literally couldn't have a camera that displayed the images it had taken on its screen without paying kodak royalty. that how gargantuan the stupidity and corruption of the patent system is.
        • 4 Years Ago
        The relevant text in the patent is this:

        "What is claimed is
        1. A hybrid electric vehicle, comprising:
        two or more drive wheels receiving torque for propelling said vehicle from an output shaft, and a power unit supplying drive torque to said output shaft, said power unit comprising:
        a controllable torque transfer unit adapted to receive torque from two sources via first and second input shafts and transmit said torque to said output shaft;

        (....)

        15. A method of operating a hybrid electric vehicle, said vehicle comprising:
        a controllable torque transfer unit, operable to transfer torque in three modes (a) from either or both of two input shafts to an output member, said output member transmitting torque to drive wheels of said vehicle; (b) between said input hafts; and (c) from said output member to one or both of said input shafts;"

        This does not seem to be talking about a power split device, but a torque (or power) combiner. There's even a picture of a conventional differential gear cluster, with what would normally be the two outputs listed as inputs.
        • 4 Years Ago
        @NeilBlanchard
        agree with you Neil. seems as though they are trying to sue based on that, even when the two seem very much different.

        @jeffzakas
        how are japan and china "allies" as you call it? How does China's blatant copyright infringement have anything to do with Japan? I'm fairly sure Toyota does its research before it builds something. Odd that you completely side with the Russian inventor.. maybe you're Russian yourself.
        • 4 Years Ago
        the inventor of hybrid breakthroughs, a russian immigrant to the usa, had his ideas stolen by toyota - and i can only say this: without patent protection, the theft of intellectual property will continue unabate - look at the chinese: they routinely steal auto and computer technology from the west, with few consequences - so, if an "ally" such as japan is allowed to steal ideas without compensation, then "competition" is merely a word, not a reality. more about paice: http://www.paice.net/about-paice/paices-hybrid-vehicle-technology-a-tale-of-american-invention-patent-infringement
        • 4 Years Ago
        Some of those drawings look *nothing* like the Prius drivetrain; namely the driveshaft to the differential and a rear wheel drive axle. It also looks like the ICE engine used has 3 cylinders...

        What is the kernel idea at the core of the Paice patent? It seems to be stretching patent law to be able to patent all types of parallel hybrids -- there has to be some *specific* thing within that to patent.

        If you can patent general ideas, then who has the patent for using wheels on cars?

        Sincerely, Neil
      • 4 Years Ago
      Ok, so they made attempts to sell this technology to automobile manufacturers, including Toyota...

      What if Paice brought NOTHING new to the board? I've not seen the details on all of this, but I do know that Toyota seems to have a good relationship with their suppliers...I don't see the net benefit of totally screwing one of them over...

      I mean, everyone seems to think they have the greatest ideas, but it's all been done man!

      http://www.ecogeek.org/component/content/article/1131



        • 4 Years Ago
        What "new"? The original Paice patent was just to combine the output of two motors using a planetary gear, giving a wider range of output speeds, but planetary gearing has been known and used for over 80 years before their supposed patent. Planetary gearing was even used in the Ford model T transmission.

        In short, I don't think the basic Paice patent is really valid, they've tried to patent something that was long known and has been used for years. They've done no development (other than using it in an impractical electric powered boat), no marketing, nothing other than filing lawsuits.
        • 4 Years Ago
        Patent '970 is considerably more complicated than "...just to combine the output of two motors using a planetary gear, giving a wider range of output speeds..."

        http://www.patentstorm.us/patents/5343970/description.html
        • 4 Years Ago
        'What if Paice brought NOTHING new to the board?'

        Then Toyota (or anyone else) would be able to show prior art, and be able to nullify the validity of the patent.

        They failed, because they can't, because Paice did bring something new to the board.
      • 4 Years Ago
      The patent office is out of control and is awarding patents for things that are obvious steps that anyone with a brain will come up with if they work on cars, hybrids or EVs for a living.

      Is Paice paying the descendants of Ferdinand Porsche? He invented the hybrid so why isn't everyone paying his family? Who decided that 17 years was some how magic? Why not 5 years? Why not 100 years?

      The pendulum has swung way to far on this one and needs to come back to reality. I've seen patents on the most ridiculous things and they do nothing but cause litigation where people have done nothing special.

      I'm in the camp that Paice has done nothing special on this one. It's an obvious technology that they had and was probably mostly, if not all, covered by others.

      As for the jury finding in favor of them....a jury also found for that OJ was innocent. A jury is just a group of people who can easily be swayed to hate "goliath" such as big corporations and vote against them. That holds absolutely no water with me.

      And for those of you who follow, I'm never one to take the sides of big corporations on here.

      • 4 Years Ago
      Only a person who never designed a vehicle could think up patents like Paice's patents. That's why nobody wants to license their patents. Toyota's hybrid is also a crap. Which is far better than what GM designed. Ford's hybrid design is better than any other, that's why their fusion hybrid gets better than camry hybrid fuel efficiency.
      • 4 Years Ago
      So how long does this patent good for? I remember reading about Toyota's legal battles with Paice years ago. Shouldn't the patent protection expired already?? if not then when?
      • 4 Years Ago
      "The judge sets an ongoing royalty of $25 per car for the three infringing vehicles (Prius II, Highlander Hybrid and Lexus RX400h) for the remaining life of the ‘970 patent."

      http://www.paice.net/about-paice/paice-a-timeline-of-events

      That is not bad in my opinion. Make it $50 per car... it is not hurting much.
        • 4 Years Ago
        Considering the substantial sales, that adds up to a lot of money, especially since they did no development and had only the the cost of patent applications and lawsuit filing fees. But they got extra greedy and tried to kill the "goose" that was providing all that gold by trying to ban sales of hybrids in the biggest automotive market in the world.

        It won't be too much longer before their patents are either expired or rendered invalid, so I guess they wanted to get as much as they could while the getting was good.

        Fortunately, they weren't able to weasel in with troll patents on series hybrids or battery electrics, as those are "prior art" thus not patentable.
      • 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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