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. 

According to Automotive News, the filing includes numerous high-volume vehicles sold in the U.S. — the most notable being the 2017 Honda Accord, 2016 Toyota Camry, and 2016 BMW 2 Series. While spokespersons from Honda, BMW, Aisin and Denso have yet to respond to the allegations, Toyota declined to comment on the matter entirely.

Intellectual Ventures is a private company focusing specifically on the expansion and licensing of intellectual properties. While it didn’t develop any of the related technology, it currently owns numerous patents on high-temperature polymers and licenses them to third parties.

The USITC said on Friday it has not yet made any decision on the merits of the case, but would set a target date to begin the investigation and complete the probe within 45 days.

[Image: Honda]

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14 Comments on “Honda, Toyota and BMW Caught Up in U.S. Patent Violation Probe...”


  • avatar
    SCE to AUX

    My guess: the auto mfrs will say they were duped by their suppliers (“I don’t know how that dope got into my glovebox”) – which they may have been – and the suppliers’ common thread for this infringement probably runs through China.

    Nobody’s checking to see if they infringed on any patents on these workhorse parts, either. That takes work.

    The moral of the story – use metal parts instead of plastic. Heh.

    • 0 avatar
      highdesertcat

      “the auto mfrs will say they were duped by their suppliers”

      I agree. Suppliers have been known to cut corners, or use similar materials, as long as the finished product meets specs.

      Kinda like the semiconductor chips that some computer makers were using, which were different in cost only because of a little white ink relabeling.

    • 0 avatar
      tekdemon

      Screw these patent trolls, buying up garbage patents when they don’t produce anything hoping to sue people into a payday is ridiculous. I hope they get sued under the ground by the automakers.

  • avatar
    Eyeflyistheeye

    Would love to see the car companies prevail and put these patent trolls out of business.

    • 0 avatar
      raph

      Yeah, smelled like a patent troll is living under the bridge. Can’t see a company called Intellectual Ventures II actual developing intellectual property.

      • 0 avatar
        stuki

        Dig a bit, and I’ll bet you’ll find someone close to the new administration standing to profit from this particular exercise in rent seeking.

        Robbing the productive, for the benefit of the connected, is what government does, after all.

  • avatar
    zamoti

    IV is a freaking worthless patent troll. At my last company they brought suit against us for using a commonly available technology that anyone can purchase. Their claim was that they “owned” deep packet inspection and anyone that has ever used it (not just sold it) was in violation. I had to sit for a six hour deposition after a full day of an attorney getting me prepped. What a miserable experience and IV can eat a bag of d1cks.

  • avatar
    orangefruitbat

    Terrible headline, as it suggests that the government is doing some sort of independent investigation. It is not. The ITC is akin to an administrative tribunal – basically a specialized patent court that deals with imports, and this is basically a patent lawsuit between two private parties. If the parts were manufactured in the US, Intellectual Ventures would file an almost identical complaint in the Federal Courts.

  • avatar
    JohnTaurus

    “…Aisin and Denso have yet to respond to the allegations, Toyota declined to comment on the matter entirely.”

    Well, um, Aisin and Denso are part of the Toyota Group, so perhaps its response is as speaking for anyone under it’s umbrella.

    I guess they do business in the U.S. as separate companies? Not sure how that works. Hino is also a company that does business here and is also owned by the Toyota Group.

  • avatar
    Chocolatedeath

    That this keeps happening is getting annoying. Folks I will tell you what the future holds. With Apple Carplay and Android auto in most cars in about 7 years. You will then have a company come around and suing not only the auto OEM but also the tech companies at the same time. THe trolls seem to wait until there is enough use of a product to get a huge pay day.

  • avatar
    Rocket

    Written like there’s a real story here. Intellectual Ventures should be exposed as the patent troll they are. Despicable.

  • avatar
    Erikstrawn

    There’s a middle ground between patent trolling and manufacturers rampantly stealing other people’s ideas (like the old Ford and intermittent wipers story). I think we’ve swung too far in favor of patent trolls, and we need to move back towards the middle. Unfortunately I think that will drive a move back to stealing ideas with impunity.

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