Honda, Toyota and BMW Caught Up in U.S. Patent Violation Probe

Matt Posky
by Matt Posky
honda toyota and bmw caught up in u s patent violation probe

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]

Join the conversation
6 of 14 comments
  • JohnTaurus JohnTaurus on May 01, 2017

    "...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.

    • See 1 previous
    • JohnTaurus JohnTaurus on May 01, 2017

      @Chocolatedeath Well, Toyota Group is listed as their "parent", so they at least have a controlling stake However, I do believe Denso, Aisin and Hino are wholly-owned subsidiaries of Toyota.

  • Chocolatedeath Chocolatedeath on May 01, 2017

    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.

  • Rocket Rocket on May 01, 2017

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

  • Erikstrawn Erikstrawn on May 02, 2017

    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.