By on May 18, 2017

2015 Ram 1500 EcoDiesel HFE, Image: FCA

The U.S. Justice Department is preparing itself for a lawsuit against Fiat Chrysler Automobiles over, you guessed it, diesel-burning engines. Cetane-rated fuel has been a broad target for governments lately, but the forthcoming FCA suit is less concerned with what you’re burning than with how you’re burning it.

Officials are concerned the automaker may have used a defeat device after the Environmental Protection Agency accused it of using software that allowed about 104,000 diesel vehicles to emit excess emissions. The models in question are 2014-2016 Jeep Grand Cherokees and Dodge Ram 1500 trucks with 3.0-liter diesel engines. (Read More…)

By on May 17, 2017

Matthias Müller, Image: Volkswagen AG/Wikimedia Commons (CC BY 3.0)

German prosecutors verified the launch of a formal investigation involving Volkswagen Group CEO Matthias Müller and chairman Hans Dieter Poetsch due to suspected market manipulation.

While we reported on the probe last week, Müller’s inclusion was highly unexpected. It was unclear what, if anything, officials had on the CEO and why they waited until now to add him to the growing number of upper-level executives under examination.

The Stuttgart prosecutor’s office stated on Wednesday the investigation was prompted by a request from market regulator BaFin in the summer of 2016. After spending some time gathering evidence, investigators began to believe executives deliberately postponed releasing information to investors about the scale of the scandal and didn’t adequately disclose its financial consequences.

VW Group maintains the leadership had complied with disclosure rules and executives were unaware of the scope of the emissions cheating scandal when it kicked-off.  (Read More…)

By on May 12, 2017

self-driving uber advanced tech center autonomous car

Waymo’s lawsuit against Uber Technologies’ alleged theft and usage of autonomous trade secrets is going to trial.

Judge William Alsup ruled Uber could not force the case into private arbitration and is referring the matter to the United States Attorney for a very public investigation.

This is everything the ride-hailing company didn’t want.

(Read More…)

By on May 4, 2017

judge alsup

The U.S. judge hearing Alphabet and Waymo’s case against Uber Technologies over pilfered trade secrets stated Wednesday that the inquest lacked clear evidence of any wrongdoing — making his decision on whether to issue an injunction against the ride-hailing service a difficult one.

U.S. District Judge William Alsup — who has already proven himself a no-nonsense individual — explained while there was undisputed proof engineer Anthony Levandowski had downloaded 9.7 gigabytes of company files prior to leaving Alphabet Inc.’s autonomous vehicle program, there wasn’t enough to indicate he conspired directly with Uber to share those trade secrets.

With nearly the entirety of the case revolving around that singular incident, this is a major problem for Waymo.  (Read More…)

By on May 1, 2017

2017 Honda Accord Sedan Engine Bay

The United States will look into components employed by some Japanese and German automakers to see if any vehicle models sold in the country violate patent laws. Probes will be conducted into 25 automakers and parts suppliers by the U.S. International Trade Commission, including Honda, Toyota, and BMW, as well as popular Japanese parts suppliers Aisin and Denso.

Intellectual Ventures II filed a complaint in March alleging thermoplastic parts used in motors, power steering units, water pumps, and other drivetrain components were being implemented in vehicles without its knowledge. It believes the companies are infringing on its patent rights and have reached out to the Trade Commission to conduct an investigation.  (Read More…)

By on April 28, 2017

self-driving uber advanced tech center autonomous car

Anthony Levandowski, the man at the nucleus of Alphabet Inc.’s intellectual property lawsuit against Uber Technologies, has abandoned his position as the team lead for the firm’s autonomous vehicle development.

Uber explained that Levandowski’s new role is less critical and has no authority over the company’s LIDAR technology, which he is accused of stealing from Alphabet’s Waymo when it was still part of Google. Since the lawsuit, Uber has done everything possible to distance itself from the man without outright firing him.  (Read More…)

By on April 27, 2017

Faraday Future FF 91

Faraday Future, which spent 2016 as the automotive poster child for bad news, continues to face a myriad of problems. In this most recent hardship, we learn Faraday couldn’t even manage to choose a company name without stirring a legal backlash.

Faraday Bicycles, which manufactures electric-assisted pedal bikes, has filed a trademark lawsuit against Faraday Future in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California. In the complaint, filed Tuesday, the e-bike company states Faraday Future has been infringing on its name — which it officially trademarked in October 2013. The legal action follows a November claim against FF over the acquisition of its domain name and nearly endless financial woes.  (Read More…)

By on April 21, 2017

2015-Volkswagen-Golf-SportWagen-09
Oh my God, it’s finally almost over. After a 10-year conspiracy and almost 600,000 rigged diesel cars, VW’s legal battle with the United States is coming to an end. Volkswagen pled guilty last month to conspiracy to commit fraud and the obstruction of justice after it was caught cheating on emissions tests in 2015, and we’ve been eagerly waiting the verdict and subsequent punishment.

Today, a U.S. judge ordered the automaker to observe three years of probation and shell out a $2.8 billion criminal fine. The sum, which Steph Willems has informed me equates to 135,168 VW Golfs — after delivery and rounding up to the closest car — is in addition to the company’s $1.5 billion in civil penalties,  $4.7 billion in mandatory anti-pollution initiatives, and $11.2 billion diesel buyback program.  (Read More…)

By on April 3, 2017

judge alsup

Uber has become quite an adept punching bag for journalists over the last few months. However, its unsavory actions only helped to hang itself in the corner of every garage across America while wearing an Everlast logo. At this point, it might as well say something nasty about everyone’s mother.

It isn’t just the press giving the ride-hailing and autonomous tech company a hard time, though. The judge overseeing its court case with Waymo over stolen intellectual property isn’t taking any bullshit from either company, or the litigant’s lawyers, and had some incredibly harsh words to share from behind the bench before adjourning court for the rest of April.  (Read More…)

By on March 28, 2017

supreme-court

A Supreme Court ruling between two food companies may benefit the Detroit Three and its many domestic suppliers.

The case of TC Heartland LLC v. Kraft Foods Group Brands focused on where plaintiffs in an intellectual property or patent infringement dispute can file a lawsuit. Current U.S. law dictates that the plaintiff may file a patent infringement suit in any court district where the defendant does business. This has saturated the Eastern District of Texas with countless patent and I.P. lawsuits. Plaintiffs prefer the region because rural Texas juries are more likely to rule against big businesses and the district is known for expediting proceedings.

According to a January study by the Stanford Technology Law Review, only about 15 percent of cases heard in the court actually involved a patent invented within the district or had an accused party that had an office in the area. However, the Supreme Court is expected to put the kibosh on the practice by forcing plaintiffs to try cases near the defendant’s headquarters — meaning domestic automakers could have the home field advantage in future legal proceedings.  (Read More…)

By on March 15, 2017

bmw grille

The U.S. Justice Department requested information from BMW AG’s leasing unit last year, hoping to get a handle on how it deals with delinquent payments from military personnel. The Servicemembers Civil Relief Act is intended to provide a wide range of protections for individuals required to enter active duty by suspending certain civil obligations, including outstanding credit card debt and auto leases.

However, BMW’s Financial Services said it doesn’t know how many of its leases might be affected by the Servicemembers Civil Relief Act’s terms. That’s not a great position to be in when federal law explicitly bans any action or penalty against currently deployed military personnel. (Read More…)

By on March 5, 2017

Uber ride, Image: Jason Tester Guerrilla Futures/Flickr

It would be an understatement to suggest that Uber has had a bad couple of weeks. It kicked off with a highly publicized blog posting from former engineer Susan Fowler describing intrinsic sexual harassment at the San Francisco-based ride-hailing service. This was followed by an open letter from two of its investors condemning the company for fostering poor corporate behavior and unhealthy business practices. This, of course, was fast followed by a lawsuit from Google-parent Alphabet’s Waymo that alleged Uber stole some of its driverless car technology.

That was last week. This week saw Uber CEO Travis Kalanick asking his senior vice president of engineering, Amit Singhal, to step down after it came to light that Singhal had neglected to reveal that he was the subject of an ongoing sexual harassment investigation at his previous employer Google. However, Kalanick ended up being the subject of his own controversy just a few days later.  (Read More…)

By on February 28, 2017

Airbags

It’s been a long road to this point, but Takata’s CFO, Yoichiro Nomura, finally had the opportunity to plead guilty on behalf of the company to fraud. The company accepted a $1 billion settlement with the U.S. government yesterday as Nomura condemned Takata’s actions as “deeply inappropriate.”

U.S. District Court Judge George Steeh confirmed the previously agreed-to settlement against objections from lawyers for victims of Takata airbag inflator explosions, who claimed the criminal settlement mistakenly identified automakers as victims of Takata’s unlawful behavior. (Read More…)

By on February 24, 2017

waymo

Waymo is suing over claims that a former employee stole the design for one of its LIDAR systems and brought it to a competitor. The alleged theft of Waymo’s intellectual property came to light after the company was accidentally privy to an email chain that described an Uber design for a LIDAR circuit board that looked very familiar.

So familiar, in fact, that the Google-backed Waymo filed a lawsuit on Thursday in a California federal court. The suit accuses former Google employee Anthony Levandowski of stealing its tech for the LIDAR sensor used by the Otto autonomous startup company. Unfortunately for Waymo, Uber paid $680 million for Otto last August and is currently using the potentially stolen designs.  (Read More…)

By on February 13, 2017

Alfa Romeo Stelvio nose logo badge

At least 20 Fiat and Alfa Romeo dealers in California have filed protests against Fiat Chrysler Automobiles after the manufacturer altered franchise agreements last December. Dealers objected to the changes, claiming it placed the struggling brands at a further disadvantage.

While the grievances vary between dealers, the protests revolve around a few key issues. FCA’s obligation to provide vehicles to the franchisees, the legal standard dealers must meet to sell those units, alterations to the definition of parts or accessories and how that might enable third-party distributors, and the constantly changing language surrounding dealer responsibilities were all common themes among the filed complaints.  (Read More…)

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