REPORT: Ford could have problems with SYNC patents

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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