By on August 31, 2012

 

If a Pennsylvania company will get its say, Ford needs to equip its F150 truck with carburetors. Or, at the very least, with something else than its current fuel injection system. TMC Fuel Injection System LLC of Wayne, Pennsylvania, sued Ford for allegedly infringing a TMC patent, Reuters says.

TMC says its 2008 patent covers a fuel flow process that improves fuel economy, cuts exhaust emissions and reduces idle speed. The system was invented in 2002 by an engineer that TMC employed, Shou Hou. He tried unsuccessfully to sell the system to Ford.

According to TMC, Ford decided against licensing the technology but has been incorporating it in its vehicles, including the F-150.

TMC is seeking a halt to the infringement, plus compensatory and triple damages.

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27 Comments on “Ford Gets Sued Over Fuel Injection Patent...”


  • avatar
    Tomifobia

    How does Sue feel about this?

  • avatar
    Cammy Corrigan

    Oooh! “Flash of Genius 2″…..?

  • avatar
    mcs

    Next up will be the Aston-Martin “trade dress” suit ala Apple for the new Fusion.

  • avatar
    Freddy M

    Ford: “No we’re not interested in buying your innovation.” (But damn, that’s a REALLY good idea)

    • 0 avatar
      jz78817

      blog commenter: “I’ll take this little scrap of information and jump to a conclusion.”

      • 0 avatar
        Freddy M

        Freddy M: “I’ll take the elements of this one-sided article and write a humorous (or not) fictional quotation that’s a tongue-in-cheek comment on “Big Business” steamrolling the little guy.”

        For all we know based on this one-sided article, Ford may have stolen the tech, or TMC may just be trying to pull a scam.

        I’ve never been a Ford defender or die-hard believer, but if my previous comment paints me as such, I guess I could do worse.

  • avatar
    sportyaccordy

    I’m more fascinated by the plastic valve covers. When the hell did that happen, and how long before that becomes Ford’s “3800 intake manifold fiasco”?

    • 0 avatar
      patman

      Ford already had their intake fiasco with the 1996-2001 4.6L SOHC but the worst case scenario tended not to be as catastrophic as the Buick 3800′s – the 4.6L just dumped a bunch of water in the valley and made a big cloud of steam encouraging you to pull off the road before any damage was done as opposed to the 3800 silently sucking coolant into intake plenum until you hydrolocked the motor.

      Plastic valve covers aren’t really a problem though – they’ve been around for a good while. I don’t think I’ve ever heard of widespread problems with plastic valve covers – a quick googling shows some people manage to crack them and some were perhaps underengineered and can warp with age and heat but that’s true of metal valve covers too.

      Plastic intakes aren’t really a problem either – a couple of engines gave them a bad name (mostly the 3800) but lots of engines have been using them for a long time and they’ve got most of the bugs workedd out now. Super light weight, cheaper to manufacture and they can be molded in shapes that are difficult or expensive to do in metal, and less heat transfer to the intake charge. For an OEM, they’re pretty much ideal. On the down side, the can’t be ported or cut and welded for modification as easily as an aluminum intake can and they’re more prone to blowing up from excessive boost or nitrous backfires.

      Anecdotally, the valve covers on my mod motor have 16 years on them, still have the original neoprene gaskets, no cracks and don’t leak a drop of oil. My intake never actually cracked either although a casting flaw in the head eventually caused a leak that presented as a cracked intake and I ended up replacing it anyway with a newer, higher performance intake with that had the fix in place.

    • 0 avatar
      jz78817

      valve covers are (relatively) non-stressed components and have been plastic on lots of engines for quite some time.

      • 0 avatar
        NMGOM

        jz78817…(and sportyaccordy)..

        This may sound like a technical distinction, but it’s not. There is a difference between a “plastic” and a “resin”. The former can be melted again; the latter is “thermoset”, and would have to be destructively degraded by very high temperatures in order to fail. Many modern cars use thermoset resins in key components to save weight, reduce cost, and not rust: BMW is a prime example, and there have been no problems.

        ————

      • 0 avatar
        DC Bruce

        @NMGOM-

        “BMW is a prime example [of using resin components] and there have been no problems” — assuming you don’t count exploding radiator expansion tanks, radiator side tanks and disintegrating water pump implellers. ;-)

        In ’01-06 M54 BMW engines (among others), these are known failure points after about 60,000 miles. The smart owner replaces all of them before they fail catastrophically (as I did).

      • 0 avatar
        redav

        NMGOM,

        Engineering books typically avoid the term “plastic” when referencing materials, and instead prefer “polymer.” What you call “plastic” is a “thermoplatic polymer,” (or thermoplastic for short) and what you call “resin” is a “thermoset polymer” (or thermoset for short). I have never seen a book use “resin” as you do.

        Per the normal usage, it is perfectly acceptable (if not preferred) to refer to both a thermoplatic & thermoset as “plastic.”

      • 0 avatar
        NMGOM

        DC Bruce..

        Ooops! You’re right, at least about the water-pump impellers. Thanks. Had not heard about the others in the BMW literature.
        My attention had been focused on the external things like intake manifolds and valve covers.

        …………………

      • 0 avatar
        NMGOM

        redav..

        Good observation. It could be that the terminology for these materials has evolved over the years. Here is the example of the text I used in 1964 as an undergrad:

        Golding, Brace, Ph.D., “Polymers and Resins”, D. Van Nostrand Co, Inc., Princeton, 1959 (Lib. of Congress Cat #: 59-8412)

        The definitions I gave to z78817 and sportyaccordy came from that text. (Guess that reveals how old I am…(^_^))

        But even in that book, the word “plastic” was seen only as colloquial, yet many people use it today for a variety of polymeric materials, which is why I put it in quotes. And the term “resin” meaning “thermoset” comes across as a natural goo from trees, which was not the intent at all!

        —————-

  • avatar
    rpol35

    Intermittent windshield wipers redux?

    • 0 avatar
      nrd515

      It wouldn’t surprise me at all if it was. The patent system is so messed up. I have to laugh when a company gets a patent on something already patented, using the original drawings to get it. How they can even keep a straight face denying the ripoff amazes me. A cousin of mine patented something to do with pressurized cans, and years later found out his drawings had been used by another company to patent it again, using in in an amazing number of products. He got a high school buddy who was a patent attorney, and ended up, after about a year and a half, with a very big check. It took a year and a half because the company lawyers kept making pitiful settlement offers that just pissed off my cousin.

  • avatar
    NMGOM

    Message to small companies with big ideas: you’ll get ripped off. And their lawyers have more money than your lawayers….

    Nobody likes REALLY game-changing inventions. Too threatening. Just keep your innovations simple and domesticated, strictly inside the box. God forbid you should come up with anything substantial.
    Can you imagine what would happen if somebody found a way to get 100 mpg out of a Ford F-150 using tap water along with gasoline, a kind of micro-emulsion? Quite possible, you know…

    Example: I used to work for an abrasives company and developed a new grinding substrate that outperformed the conventional product not by 10% or 15%……but by 150%. It threatened to obsolete two divisions. They were horrified and shelved it. I left.

    ———-

    • 0 avatar
      Landcrusher

      Message to big companies attacked by patent trolls: Fight! Expose the financial principles and partners publicly and bury them in work.

      Of course, we have no idea from this article which side is misbehaving. The patent sounds kind of weak to me, but that’s just intuition. Ford could be wrong, or it could be an honest disagreement.

      • 0 avatar
        Chicago Dude

        A true patent troll wouldn’t file a lawsuit in the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. The Eastern District of Texas is where that business is done.

        A quick skip over to the USPTO site and the search terms “IN/SHOU AND AN/TMC” gives two fuel injector patents. The one in question appears to be 7,318,414. It was filed in May 2002, yet the application references patents and applications filed afterwards. No big deal, just that you now know that this inventor went back and forth with the patent examiner about prior art and/or the uniqueness of the “invention”.

        Looking at those other patents referenced you will see company names such as Bosch, TI Automotive and VISTEON.

        Dollars to donuts, Ford is going to claim some combination of the following:
        1) The f-150 fuel system is an implementation of some combination of these other patents. IE, it does not infringe.
        2) This 7,318,414 isn’t valid, should have never been issued, was completely obvious to a person trained in fuel injection systems.

        By the way, this patent essentially claims to be the following:

        Instead of changing the flow of fuel by adjusting the voltage to the fuel pump, you keep the fuel pump running at a constant speed and adjust the flow by having multiple fuel return loops and you open and close each of the individually as needed. The Visteon patent says basically the same thing except it says to use a solenoid to control the opening and closing of the valve. This patent says to use anything that can open and close the valve extremely quickly. Of course, the only such device suitable for this application is a solenoid, but…

        The patent office screwed up.

        FYI – Next month the patent office opens their new Detroit office which will have administrative judges that can fix these mistakes before the lawsuits are filed. I wonder if this lawsuit was filed now to get it in before that takes effect.

      • 0 avatar
        icemilkcoffee

        Thanks for the investigative work, Chicago Dude. So the invention is a way to change fuel pressure by bleeding off fuel and returning it to the tank. I wonder why this is preferable to the variable voltage fuel pump method. I thought most modern cars use non-return fuel systems?

        So between the TMC patent and the similar Visteon patent- who filed first? That should settle that.

      • 0 avatar
        Chicago Dude

        Well, supposedly (according to the patent) when you change the voltage it takes too long for the flow to stabilize at the targeted rate and makes low-speed engine operation dirtier and less efficient than the new method.

        The two patents appear to me to be functionally identical, but I am neither a patent attorney nor a fuel injection system engineer. I do, however, understand how to read a patent (each section has certain meaning; some sections have legal force behind what is written and others do not, etc). My opinion is that only one of the two patents should have been granted, but whatever the outcome there is no way TMC is going to get the triple damages for willful infringement. They are just too similar.

      • 0 avatar
        LeadHead

        I do not know of a single Ford vehicle that uses an electronically controlled “return” system. Ford went to an ECU modulated return-less fuel system in the late 90s, and hasn’t changed the basic design since.

        The only relation between the two systems at all is that they both electronically vary fuel pressure. However, they do it in entirely different ways, and Ford has been using their system since at least 1997.

      • 0 avatar
        golden2husky

        I thought that returnless became preferable because it saves the cost of an additional line and it does not return warmed gas to the tank, reducing the vapor pressure…

  • avatar
    Darkhorse

    What the hell is going on regarding patents in this country? Apple vs Samsung, Samsung vs Apple trolls vs everyone. Maybe TMC has a legitimate case but this whole patent thing is a mess, especially when it comes to software.

  • avatar
    el scotto

    TMC maybe gunning for “go away money” or in a press release: It was settled out of court.

  • avatar
    86SN2001

    Ford? Stealing ideas from other companies? Say it isn’t so!!

    Ford’s been doing this for decades. It’s their M.O.


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