Photo via Beige Alert via Flickr CC
Paice, a company that develops hybrid electric power train technology, has filed a patent infrigement case against Toyota (yet again), saying that the company is using Paice's technology in the Prius and two other hybrid vehicles. Should Paice win, it could spell the death of certain vehicle imports, possibly including the green icon Prius. According to Sam Eaton in an article from Marketplace, Paice claims Toyota's new Prius, hybrid Camry and two Lexus models are using technology Paice created. Back in 2005, the company won a claim against Toyota for this very infringement. That claim cost Toyota a whopping $4.3 million - $25 for every Prius, Highlander and Lexus RX400h sold using the disputed technology. It says Toyota is again using the same technology, and therefore has a fighting chance for this claim.
On Thursday, Paice filed a patent infringement case with the U.S. International Trade Commission. The agency is set up to protect U.S. markets from unfair trade practices, patents included. If it rules in favor of Paice, the agency could decide to impose an import ban on the violating products. That process could take more than a year.
Because Toyota is, well, Toyota, industry experts say the likely outcome is a fairly massive fine, and not banning imports of the incredibly popular vehicles.
Here's a bit of a kicker: With the last suit, "Paice said the market for hybrid cars "did not take off" until Toyota "revamped its vehicle program" with technology Paice patented almost a decade earlier." So if a company has a technology that could be a huge boon for drivers and the environment and they sit on it for a decade, does a competing company that finally does something with it and makes it a success really need to be sued repeatedly for using it? Paice seems to be somewhat at fault for not being effective enough with a smart technology.
It's a sticky situation, and we certainly don't want to see Toyota hybrid vehicles banned from US import because another company can't make their own tech fly.
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