• Jul 27th 2011 at 8:03AM
  • 13
Japanese automaker Toyota is involved in a hybrid patent infringement case with Palo Alto, CA-based Efficient Drivetrains Inc. (EDI). Similar to the PAICE case, Toyota is being accused of using technologies that have been patented by another corporation. This time 'round, it's Efficient Drivetrains against Toyota.

On July 20th, Toyota filed a complaint in San Jose, CA, seeking a court order to approve the use of the questioned technology in its hybrid vehicles, including the Prius and Lexus RX 400h. In part, the complaint filed by Toyota reads, "EDI has contended that the Toyota Hybrids infringe each of the asserted patents and has indicated it intends to enforce" them. Toyota denies any wrongdoing.

Efficient Drivetrains claims it holds an exclusive license from the University of California for use of patented technologies invented by EDI co-founder Andy Frank. Toyota contends it didn't infringe on the patents, and also claims the patents are invalid.




[Source: Automotive News – sub. req.]


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  • 13 Comments
      paulwesterberg
      • 4 Years Ago
      The US patent system is horribly horribly broken. Patents are bought and traded by shell companies full of lawyers that produce nothing useful and demand protection payments to avoid direct litigation. Meanwhile the patent office awards obvious and overlapping patents. "Bread Refreshing Method" or how to make toast: http://www.google.com/patents?id=IpwDAAAAEBAJ&printsec=abstract#v=onepage&q&f=false Software, business methods, procedures & processes should not be patentable and hardware patents should face a stringent review process and only be awarded to companies that actually make and sell a product. If you are an oil company(Cheveron) and you are sitting on a battery patent(NiMH) unwilling to actually sell any batteries then your patent should be voided. https://secure.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/wiki/Nickel-metal_hydride_battery#Patent_encumbrance_in_electric_vehicles
        Marco Polo
        • 4 Years Ago
        @paulwesterberg
        @ Paul, [Quote]"If you are an oil company(Cheveron) and you are sitting on a battery patent(NiMH) unwilling to actually sell any batteries then your patent should be voided."[/quote] I wonder how all those NiMH batteries that Gold Peak is selling, are able to be sold?
          Mike Dimmick
          • 4 Years Ago
          @Marco Polo
          Gold Peak have an unrestricted license granted by Ovshinsky before he sold out to GM.
      Jorge Pinto
      • 4 Years Ago
      "Involoved"??? somebody turn on the autocheck...
      joeboarder108
      • 4 Years Ago
      I wonder if all these legal entanglements will affect Subaru's hybrid efforts. Some rumors seem to be saying that they wont be using toyota's system at all though, and instead using an in-house system, which might not be a bad thing.
      Marco Polo
      • 4 Years Ago
      Without Patent protection, who would invest the millions, sometimes billions, to risk developing new technology? Paulwesterburg complains that Patents are "bought and traded by shell companies full of lawyers that produce nothing useful and demand protection payments to avoid direct litigation." Patents are intellectual property. Like any equity, or property only the owner can sell title to such property. If the the Patent holder sells his/her property to anyone, that is their own business. No one holds a gun at their heads. If the new owner successfully develops the Patent to become more valuable, that's simply business. The example is the same as a farmer who is unable to make a living from his land, so he sells. Another farmer works harder or smarter and develops the farm to become profitable. Why should the lazy owner be recompensed for making a bad or unlucky decision? No one is compelled to sell to "nasty Patent trolls!" Selling a Patent is exactly the same as selling anything other property. Once sold, you lose the right to control the intellectual property. It's true that often inventors lack the skills, capital, business acumen and organisational ability to properly develop raw ideas to marketable products. Often these products are only valuable as components in existing technology. Some patents are so valuable to either national security or medical necessity that the Patent office can, or be directed by a court, proclaim a patent in "Eminent Domain" . This is very rare, but any one can petition. The alternative is simply copy the idea in the PRC or other countries where no one care about US patent rights!
        Smith Jim
        • 4 Years Ago
        @Marco Polo
        Excellent post, Marco Polo
        Dan Frederiksen
        • 4 Years Ago
        @Marco Polo
        protecting good inventions is an illusion and not the reality of the patent system. it is rotten to the core in every aspect of the system and it should be put down. it only serves the lawyers. even the big rotten corporations suffer under it and the little guy most certainly does. not that you care about truth
      • 4 Years Ago
      I hate patent trolls...first they cripple the software industry...now they are going after physical industry...
      Dave Kruger
      • 4 Years Ago
      Anyone who's interested in this story should give this week's "This American Life" podcast a listen. It's all about exactly this kind of situation, where nasty patent trolls go around buying up any patents they can find, and then instead of using them to produce anything, they wait for someone else to produce it and then sue them. I have little doubt that this is exactly what's happening here. Anyway, if you're interested, I highly recommend it. Hell, even if you're not interested, I still recommend it: http://www.podtrac.com/pts/redirect.mp3/podcast.thisamericanlife.org/podcast/441.mp3
      Dan Frederiksen
      • 4 Years Ago
      I've looked at the first 3 of 5 of the patents. they are nonsense trivial patents. basically controlling ICE and power consumption such that the battery is never fully depleted. trivial nonsense like that. toyota did violate the paice patent which had a minimum of technical substance. these appear to be bs.
        Mike Dimmick
        • 4 Years Ago
        @Dan Frederiksen
        The Paice patent had no real comparison to the Toyota system. The machine described in the abstract was more like GM's Volt, with a clutch between motor and transmission. Indeed the abstract specifically mentions the TRW patents (the mechanical layout of Toyota's system) and contrasts their invention to it. Unfortunately, where patents are concerned, what matters is *not* the diagrams or the abstract, only the claims section. The claims were written generally enough that they could be interpreted as covering virtually any design of hybrid. THAT is the problem with the patent system - that the claims are drafted and interpreted far too widely, awarding royalties to people who did NOT invent the device or method, and failing to protect those who DID, on the basis of having snuck the too-broad claims past the patent examiner. Best lawyer wins, not best inventor.
      cruiserofland
      • 4 Years Ago
      Actually, Dr. Frank at UC Davis is widely considered the father of the PHEV, having refined the concept over the last 40 years, probably before it was a twinkle in Toyota's eye. So to all you who don't know the situation, do a little research first. I wouldn't be surprised if Toyota "borrowed" from his research patents, 'cause guess who wins in court when it's international corporation vs. start-up. For reference, EDI was founded to help get Dr. Frank's university work into the marketplace.
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