2010 Toyota Prius – Click above for high-res image gallery
With every new vehicle introduced by Toyota that is 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 judgment against Toyota that resulted 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.