By on July 9, 2011


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.”

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29 Comments on “Ford Sued For Sync...”

  • avatar

    Are these guys going to take credit for the poor operation of Sync too?

    They just want a royalty for each unit sold. This type of activity goes on in the computer world and has been very hot in the cellphone world. I assume that Microsoft will be caught up in this since they supply some of the base technology for Sync. Hint to Eagle Harbor Holdings: Microsoft has more money in the bank.

    I don’t know about this situation but some patents are ridiculous. I was once involved in a patent lawsuit that concerned ordering things alphabetically. It failed. I think the Phoenicians (inventors of our alphabet) had some prior art.

    • 0 avatar

      The patent system in the US is profoundly broken right now, and serves to stifle – not encourage – innovation. I don’t agree with him on everything, but I think Richard Stallman is certainly right about software patents.

      If you can’t innovate – litigate!

      • 0 avatar

        Their MediusTech division has a couple of products in my space. I’m quite a bit ahead of them, but I’m going to keep an eye on them. I took a quick look at one of their patents. I don’t know if it’s one of the patents in question, but I saw what I think is a huge fundamental flaw – although I need to study it a bit further to be sure. It looks like they didn’t have a complete grasp of the technology they were using and it may have bit them. If Ford saw the same thing I did, I can see why they broke off talks.

    • 0 avatar

      I assume that Microsoft will be caught up in this since they supply some of the base technology for Sync.

      No…MS provided the OS for SINK…that is all. Remember that SINK was not the first system like it. Ford actually got the idea from Fiat…which also used MS OS as a ‘foundation’ so to speak.

    • 0 avatar

      If you think Sync is bad, try even pairing a phone with a new Acura.. and I pray you don’t have an iPhone.

  • avatar

    These guys sound like professional patent holders. Patent everything and make actual producers pay protection money to them. Hopefully the suit won’t go anywhere.

    • 0 avatar

      Assuming these guys actually did develop tech used in OnStar, they seem to be more than mere patent trolls. I agree that software patents have become ridiculous, but that doesn’t mean that theft of intellectual property isn’t a real problem. I wouldn’t be so quick to dismiss their case.

      • 0 avatar

        Software patents are so broken that many, myself included, tend to dismiss any of these cases as the work of patent trolls.

        Agreed that there could well be some legitimate claim here, but in this space it seems that legitimate claims are far and few between…

    • 0 avatar

      These guys sound like professional patent holders.

      So what?

      Even is that is true…so what? That somehow relieves Ford of the legal requirement to pay for the products they are selling?

      I HIGHLY DOUBT that this is merely a case of “patent holding” if they had been in talks since 2002. What I bet happened is Ford talked with them for 6 years, got all the info they needed (read: stole the important bits) and then made their own system.

      People and the media need to stop giving Ford free passes on this kind of stuff (all the recent quality lapses, recalls, MFT, etc) and hold Ford accountable. Had people and the media done that, there’s a good chance Ford would have all of the issues of late they have…

    • 0 avatar

      That is EXACTLY what they are, check out their website.

  • avatar


    Is anyone really surprised that greedy Ford took all of those electronic gimmicks?

    Way to go BIG AL!!!

    And who cares if Eagle Holdings are patent trolls or not….if they hold the patent, they deserve to be compensated. That’s how everyone would think should this have involved ANY OTHER MANUFACTURER…

    Ford’s Sync doesn’t get a break. It attracted undue attention from LaHood’s distracted driving crusade.

    “Undue” attention??? Ford promotes the practice of distracted driving with this system. Add to that the terrible operation, horrid voice recognition, and all of the issues associated with MyFord Touchy…and it’s clear that Ford’s infotainment systems are dangerous.

    A person who crashes their car while using SINK could make a lot of money suing Ford for selling the flawed system as a safer alternative to talking and driving.

    • 0 avatar

      Silvy – Now this might be linking the assumptions but bear with me…..

      From (all) your post I’d say that you don’t like Ford’s. In fact from your previous posts I’m guessing you’d prefer herpes over a Ford. Therefore I’ll assume you’d not own / lease / rent / borrow a recent ford vehicle nore visit a Ford dealer to try a Ford vehicle, Yet you are claiming to KNOW that sync is distracting to driving, that it has terrible voice recognition and is dangerous

      Therefore I can only conclude that either despite your dislike for Ford you’ve objectively tested 1 or more Ford vehicle with Sync & MyFord Touch to form your strong opinions OR you are this:

      • 0 avatar

        Yes, I have had a decent amount of seat time with both SINK and MyFord Touchy. One was at an empty dealer inside of a Flex (SINK), and the other was at a dealer sponsored event inside a Edge (MFT).

        Both times, the systems did not work. The voice recognition was utterly useless in the station wagon, and the touch screen rebooted a number of times while trying to use it.

        And the fact that it’s dangerous is just common sense. One does not have to actually be shot to know that being shot is a critical situation.

        Driving while talking/reading texts is dangerous…and it’s a practice that is PROMOTED by SINK/MFT. Ford encourages it by saying that using those (extremely flawed) systems is safer than the traditional way. That is nonsense.

  • avatar

    does Ford not learn? :D

  • avatar

    I had linked to their website over at LLN. It looks like their website was done in 2002, using FrontPage, by a 15-year old.

    They are your typical patent squatter scumbags.

  • avatar

    1) Eagle Harbor is behind Onstar. 2) Eagle Harbor is suing Ford for SYNC. 3) GM is trying to catch up to the last version of SYNC.

    I see problems here. Eagle Harbor would be making systems for competing car companies! Nor was Eagle’s product ready in time, or they were incapable of doing so….so Ford used Microsoft.

  • avatar

    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.

  • avatar
    Sam P

    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.

  • avatar

    Here is a link to the court filing and documents:


    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.

  • avatar
    John Horner

    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.

    • 0 avatar

      Either way….Ford needs to pay for what they are using.

      • 0 avatar

        Have you been in a GM lately? Or an Acura? Played around with their in-dash infotainment systems. These patents would reach to just about every auto maker in the world. EHH are patent trolls. Patent law has not kept up with changes in technology, the speed that technology can be capitalized on, and how IP should be properly handled.

        You can keep beating the drum against Ford on this one, but you’re not scoring any points – in a reasonable world with a streamlined patent system these patents would be looked upon as largely garbage, and the whole thing would be thrown out.

        By the way, I own the patent to the letter e, you owe me a lot of money buddy.

      • 0 avatar

        Only if the patents are enforceable. If the patents are unenforceable due to being too broad, due to prior art, or one of plenty of other reasons, then this is nothing but an attempt at a cash grab by EHH. The patent system was developed to protect and foster innovation, not to serve as source of revenue for a litigation based business model.

      • 0 avatar

        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.

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