Ford Sued For Sync

Bertel Schmitt
by Bertel Schmitt
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Ford’s Sync doesn’t get a break. It attracted undue attention from LaHood’s distracted driving crusade. Consumer Reports had issues with the system. Sync sank Ford in the 2011 J.D. Power Initial Quality Survey. Can it get any worse?

Yes, it can. Ford is being sued for patent infringement.

Bainbridge Island-based Eagle Harbor Holdings has filed a lawsuit against Ford, alleging infringement of seven patents. The company says that Ford infringed on seven of its patents for the technology behind Sync and some other safety technologies such as Active Park Assist, Blind-Spot Identification System with Cross Traffic Alert, Integrated Control System for Stability Control, and MyKey.

According to the Seattle Times, Eagle Harbor began developing the technologies more than 10 years ago. Talks between Eagle Harbor and Ford began in 2002, says the lawsuit. According to the filing, Ford stopped communication with Eagle Harbor in 2008 and began incorporating the technology into its products over the next year.

Does that mean Ford will be out of Sync? Not really. Should Ford lose, it will be out of a little money.

“We’d much rather do business with Ford as customers than have to file this lawsuit against them. Their business could mean millions,” said Jeffrey Harmes, general counsel for Eagle Harbor.

Eagle Harbor founders Dan and Joe Preston also founded Airbiquity, a Seattle vehicle-services technology company, in 1997. The Seattle Times says that “Airbiquity’s technology is in General Motors’ OnStar wireless platform, which connects motorists to information services.”

Bertel Schmitt
Bertel Schmitt

Bertel Schmitt comes back to journalism after taking a 35 year break in advertising and marketing. He ran and owned advertising agencies in Duesseldorf, Germany, and New York City. Volkswagen A.G. was Bertel's most important corporate account. Schmitt's advertising and marketing career touched many corners of the industry with a special focus on automotive products and services. Since 2004, he lives in Japan and China with his wife <a href=""> Tomoko </a>. Bertel Schmitt is a founding board member of the <a href=""> Offshore Super Series </a>, an American offshore powerboat racing organization. He is co-owner of the racing team Typhoon.

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8 of 29 comments
  • Sector 5 Sector 5 on Jul 09, 2011

    This is a lot of negative consumer ho for Ford which they should heed. SYNC needs a reboot with a new, unsinkable name. Personally I think this reeks of corporate sabotage along the way.

  • Sam P Sam P on Jul 09, 2011

    Maybe Ford should have partnered with Google or Apple for a mobile multimedia OS instead of Microsoft. And the Eagle Harbor guys sound like a couple of patent trolls - modern day George Seldens. The fact that they're located on B-I and not an office park in Redmond or Bellevue or a tower in downtown Seattle makes me seriously doubt their veracity.

  • NulloModo NulloModo on Jul 09, 2011

    Here is a link to the court filing and documents: Clicky I'm not an expert on reading legalese or patents, but just from skimming it a lot of it looks pretty general. For example, it looks as if EHH is trying to say they own the patent on any system that integrates multiple sensors that detect other vehicles and display visual and audio warnings. None of the patents seem to be so specific as to apply only to Sync or Ford's other systems listed in the suit. If there is any validity to any of this, I would expect a lot of other automakers could possibly end up on the hook as well.

  • John Horner John Horner on Jul 09, 2011

    Many so called technology development companies are in fact nothing but patent trolls. Unfortunately, the US' patent system is so horrifically broken as to have fostered a whole industry of this kind of company. Look through their web page and you will not find any press release about actual products of theirs going into production. Instead it is all about patents, lawsuits and the funding thereof.

    • See 3 previous
    • Redmondjp Redmondjp on Jul 10, 2011

      @Z71_Silvy Yes, the above points are valid. In my job, I have had to do patent searches, and after perusing only a few hundred, it will simply blow your mind. Some of them are so broad that it stretches the mind to imagine how they were even granted in the first place. One that I can specifically recall reading was a patent (and the date was "recent", maybe 20-30 years ago if that) on the typical ignition system for a gasoline-powered internal combustion engine. How this patent could have been granted in the time period that it was is simply beyond me, as there was nothing unique that I could see as an engineer which would have made it patentable. But alas, I'm not a patent attorney, so I don't play those games.