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The following was posted on the MSNBC website this morning:

U.S. to open patent probe on Toyota hybrids
Automaker could be banned from importing fuel-efficient cars

TOKYO - A U.S. trade body is to investigate a complaint that Toyota Motor Corp.'s popular Prius and Highlander hybrid models infringed a patent, according to the body's website.

The U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) will look at a claim that the patent is owned by Florida-based Solomon Technologies Inc., it said.

Solomon Technologies filed a complaint with the panel last month saying the hybrid transmission in the two popular vehicles infringed its patent related to motor and transmission systems.

If the ITC agrees with Solomon, Japan's top auto maker could be banned from importing the systems and the Prius and Highlander hybrid models that they power. The ITC said opening a case does not mean it has made any decision on the merits.

A Toyota spokesman said it cannot comment on ongoing cases.

In September, Solomon applied to a Florida federal district court for an injunction against Toyota barring infringement and damages for unauthorized use of its patented technologies.

Toyota sold 110,000 Prius models and 18,800 Highlander hybrid SUVs in North America last year.
 

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Pretty much. That's why everyone is claiming that Ford bought the rights from Toyota so Ford did no research, when in fact Ford got theirs so close, they decided to swap patent rights with Toyota rather than risk a lawsuit.
 

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Patent Case

These patent cases are really annoying. Things like Blackberry, SCO vs. Linux, and now this. Why did they wait so long before filing their complaint? I hardly believe this is going to result in Toyota being banned from importing hybrids into the US. Either Solomon doesn't really have a case, or Toyota will have to settle.
 

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The process is the only protection American companies have protecting their rights which are sorely being abused by the Chinese and numerous others. I expect Ford had the same right to purchase the patent rights held by the outfit in Florida. One of the largest depts. in any manufacturers R&D devisions is that which investigates and protects against patent infringement. It certainly is possible for anyone to "goof."
I'm sure if Toyota believed there were close similarities in their design to that of the company in Florida an arrangement would have been made, just as Ford did when they discovered their's was similar to the one being used by Toyota.
 

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Very little reporting is done in the main stream media, just a lot of embelishing of facts that are otherwise not sexy or exciteing. These patent lawsuits are usually entirely baseless because those bringing suit are sueing under an entierly false premise regarding patent law. You cannot ask for or gain patent protection for a concept, you can only get a patent on a process or very specific design of a process.

Let's put it another way. I've been shopping for pellet stoves lately. I've seen many stoves from many manufacturers, and for the most part they all operate identically. Pellets go into a bin at the top. An auger dispenses pellets into a burn pot, the pellets burn, you have heat. The way the auger is controlled may differ from one to another, some use an electric eye to monitor flame, others use a timer, some a thermostatically controlled, others are not; the list goes on and on. Now, considering that the basic design and implementation of a pellet stove is the same from manufacturer and the differences between them are few, why aren't pellet stove manufacturers suing each other for patent enfringement? Because, they understand that the basic design of a pellet stove is identical.

Whitfield can patent their electric eye pellet control system and that is a specific process to meter pellets into the burn pot. If Avalon were to come by and use the exact same system, with no changes and no individual effort, i.e. an exact copy, then they would be in violation. However if Avalon looks at the concept of using an electic eye, and then decides to implement their own version, including their own eye, their own control logic for it, how are they in violation? They are not because you cannot patent protect a concept, you can only patent a specific design or process.

So, is the PSD concept or specific design. An appropriate evaluation is concept, not design. The specific construction of the PSD, materials used, diameters, number of teeth, gearing configuration, etc. are all specific design issues and can be patent protected, however the concept of a plannetary gear transmission is very old and commonly used in many applications.

This "case" won't go very far because concepts cannot be patented.
 

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My explanation above says it fine. The concept for a control system is not patentable, however the design for a specific control system is patentable. If a competitor likes the concept and goes out and designs their own control system, then it isn't patent infringement. If a competitor goes out and copies directly the exact system and then starts selling it, then it is patent infringing.

Another example: how many patent drugs are out there for acid reflux? Prilosec, Prevacid, etc. Now, can the maker of Prilosec sue the maker of Prevacid. No, and they haven’t. Why? Because both manufacturers know that even though their products are designed to provide most of the same benefits to their users, they also both know that the chemical composition and formula for their drugs is different. And they also know that one manufacturer’s drug might work with one consumer, but not another. However, if the maker of Prilosec did decide to sue the maker of Prevacid their suit wouldn’t hold up because the basis for the suit would be a drug to prevent acid reflux, which is a concept.

In the history of patent law in the U.S. there have not been nearly as many patent infringement claims as there have been in the last 10 years. Why? Because the patent office’s procedure for granting patents on increasingly technical and complex designs is outmoded and out of date. The patent office is granting patents on concepts even though they are not supposed to because the patent officers are not specialists, but generalists, and patent applications are handed out in round robin to those officers, not to those who have any special training or knowledge about the viability, originality or realistic possibilities associated with a patent. As such, patents are granted on concepts because the patent officers do not know any better. To correct this the patent office needs to create technical divisions of experts and patent applications are routed to those divisions who have the technical ability to evaluate a patent fully and grant or refuse patent status based upon the uniqueness and validity of its design. I wouldn’t ask an automobile engineer to evaluate programming for web site, and likewise I wouldn’t expect a web designer to know anything about automobiles, but our patent office is doing just that, and granting inappropriate patents every day because of this exact situation.

Patent law is about protecting intellectual property (specific intellectual thoughts that lead to a specific design and specific processes and specific outcomes), not holding general knowledge or general discoveries hostage or ransom.
 

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DanMan32 said:
Pretty much. That's why everyone is claiming that Ford bought the rights from Toyota so Ford did no research, when in fact Ford got theirs so close, they decided to swap patent rights with Toyota rather than risk a lawsuit.
I was under the impression the Ford/Toyota debate was software related to the controlling of the hybrid components, not anything specific to the tranny.

So this new one is the tranny? CVTs aren't new either, been around for a while.

Spike
 

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jeromep said:
Very little reporting is done in the main stream media, just a lot of embelishing of facts that are otherwise not sexy or exciteing. These patent lawsuits are usually entirely baseless because those bringing suit are sueing under an entierly false premise regarding patent law. You cannot ask for or gain patent protection for a concept, you can only get a patent on a process or very specific design of a process.

Let's put it another way. I've been shopping for pellet stoves lately. I've seen many stoves from many manufacturers, and for the most part they all operate identically. Pellets go into a bin at the top. An auger dispenses pellets into a burn pot, the pellets burn, you have heat. The way the auger is controlled may differ from one to another, some use an electric eye to monitor flame, others use a timer, some a thermostatically controlled, others are not; the list goes on and on. Now, considering that the basic design and implementation of a pellet stove is the same from manufacturer and the differences between them are few, why aren't pellet stove manufacturers suing each other for patent enfringement? Because, they understand that the basic design of a pellet stove is identical.

Whitfield can patent their electric eye pellet control system and that is a specific process to meter pellets into the burn pot. If Avalon were to come by and use the exact same system, with no changes and no individual effort, i.e. an exact copy, then they would be in violation. However if Avalon looks at the concept of using an electic eye, and then decides to implement their own version, including their own eye, their own control logic for it, how are they in violation? They are not because you cannot patent protect a concept, you can only patent a specific design or process.

So, is the PSD concept or specific design. An appropriate evaluation is concept, not design. The specific construction of the PSD, materials used, diameters, number of teeth, gearing configuration, etc. are all specific design issues and can be patent protected, however the concept of a plannetary gear transmission is very old and commonly used in many applications.

This "case" won't go very far because concepts cannot be patented.
Yes!
 

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hyperion said:
If concepts aren't patentable why did Ford buy Toyotas licensing rights?
This suit has been in the works for years and is finally getting to the courts, probably where it should be. I do believe that Roe vs Wade will proceed it in Washington however!
As I stated above, from what I have read on the Ford thing it was an issue where they bought the software for controlling the Hybrid components from Toyota. Toyota had it, it workded, Ford wanted it, didn't want to spend the $$ or time to fully develop and test it.

From the article posted above the complaint was only filed last month, so not for years.

and preceed it?

I would guess very strongly, this new suit will be dismissed. But it will take time.

Spike
 

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hyperion said:
The process is the only protection American companies have protecting their rights which are sorely being abused by the Chinese and numerous others. I expect Ford had the same right to purchase the patent rights held by the outfit in Florida. One of the largest depts. in any manufacturers R&D devisions is that which investigates and protects against patent infringement. It certainly is possible for anyone to "goof."
I'm sure if Toyota believed there were close similarities in their design to that of the company in Florida an arrangement would have been made, just as Ford did when they discovered their's was similar to the one being used by Toyota.
Where did China come in? We, and any company in the world, not just the US, has very little copyright protection in China. The laws are there in most cases, but no atempt is made to enforce them, at any level. They have companies making counterfit motorcycles and cars for crying out loud, we aren't talking just watches and DVDs. In the 80s there was a company in China making a Jeep Cherokee, it was an exact copy, even from a couple of feet away, you would have said that is a Jeep. Even recently a motorcycle magazine posted a picture of some "Chinese" bikes, they were exact copies of some Japanese bikes. Not similar, exact. They bought one, took it apart, made the molds, and away they went.

Spike
 

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Spike said:
As I stated above, from what I have read on the Ford thing it was an issue where they bought the software for controlling the Hybrid components from Toyota. Toyota had it, it workded, Ford wanted it, didn't want to spend the $$ or time to fully develop and test it.
As Dan wrote, not so; Ford developed a hybrid drive independently and then found it sufficiently similar to Toyota's that they mutually agreed to cross license to prevent any legal problems:

http://www.businessweek.com/innovate/Nu ... vat_1.html

I wonder why Solomon isn't pursuing Ford along with Toyota.
 

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Thank you Spike and Richard. You both made my points, and I'm sure Ford felt they were out of this Florida thing (which has been brewing for the past three years) when they reached an agreement with Toyota so as not to encounter the same problem. If Toyota does not preserver I'm sure Ford will endeavor to come to terms with the "winner."
And the U.S. seems to be finally going after all the outfits counterfeiting in China. Probably won't be able to enforce decisions made in U.S. courts but it's a start.
 

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Prius value may increase

Well if this were true and toyota was banned from importing Prius model cars, that could only mean that those already in the market might increase in value. Do you agree?
 

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richard schumacher said:
Spike said:
As I stated above, from what I have read on the Ford thing it was an issue where they bought the software for controlling the Hybrid components from Toyota. Toyota had it, it workded, Ford wanted it, didn't want to spend the $$ or time to fully develop and test it.
As Dan wrote, not so; Ford developed a hybrid drive independently and then found it sufficiently similar to Toyota's that they mutually agreed to cross license to prevent any legal problems:

http://www.businessweek.com/innovate/Nu ... vat_1.html

I wonder why Solomon isn't pursuing Ford along with Toyota.
Yeah, I would want something more independent than someone that works at Ford saying this. 21 items that are sufficiently different to require and get their own patent, and Ford just happens to come up with the same 21 items -- at the same time -- for the same use. I find that very difficult to believe, very very difficult.
Like has been said, you can't patent a general idea, you can't patent a sunroof, but you could patent your specific mechanism for opening one -- if it was sufficiently different.
And yes, competitors sell license rights every day for business reasons. But they tend not to do it unless they have to. And it is usually for something very specific. Like BMW can patent its iDrive system, but when Mercedes came out with its command system, they didn't get permission from BMW. Even though they are both simple controllers, used to control the systems of a car thru a main menu. How they work is different. Notice that Ford, or Toyota for that matter, doesn't pay Honda for anything. And Honda was first to the market with a modern Hybrid car. That right there tells me something is fishy about the idea that Ford had to go to Toyota. To my knowledge none of the other car makers developing Hybrids has gone to Toyota for help.
It interests me to no end that the author just gushes about how Ford was the first to put an hybrid SUV on the market. Big frigg'n whoop. It was Honda that put the first vehicle on the road in the US with a hybrid drivetrain; that was a big risk and a big development. Toyota brought it to the US market and brought it to the fairly mainstream market. That was a big risk. Ford only jumped in once it was proven as a viable idea, and that the US market would embrace it. Does anyone doubt that we wouldn't have the Escape Hybrid if the insight and particuarly the Prius hadn't gone first and been successfull?
Interesting how they say they are still the only hybrid on the market that meets AT-PZEV regs. Well, they are also the only 4cyc hybrid SUV on the market. Surely she knows that.
Or that it gets 75% better mileage than the gas version. Surely she knows, real world that isn't true. But wants to put it in there to toot Ford's horn.
She goes on to gloat about how they will have 250k hybrids sold by 2010; how many does Toyota or Honda have now? Toyota has to be getting close, no?

Spike
 

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Spike said:
21 items that are sufficiently different to require and get their own patent, and Ford just happens to come up with the same 21 items -- at the same time -- for the same use. I find that very difficult to believe, very very difficult.
Sometimes there's only one way to do things... when Ford noticed their way was similar enough to Toyota's to cause concern, they just 'happened' to notice that a lot of Toyota's diesel engines happened to use technology Ford patented. So a swap licensing agreement later, everyone was happy.
 
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