Paice LLC filed a lawsuit in the United States District Court in Baltimore against Ford Motor Co. alleging that the carmaker’s hybrid and plug-in versions of the C-Max, Fusion and Lincoln MKZ all infringe its patents covering ways to control electric motors and internal combustion engines to allow better fuel efficiency and lesser emissions without sacrificing performance.
Ford had licensed one of Paice's patents under an agreement inked in 2010. The companies agreed not to litigate over other patents until Jan. 1, 2014, to provide them time to achieve a broader settlement. Paice, however, said the negotiations were "short and one-sided."
"The truth is that Ford built its new hybrid system by relying heavily on the hybrid vehicle inventions it learned from Paice," the group said in the lawsuit.
The Abell Foundation, a non-profit group that invests in Baltimore-area firm like Paice, also joined the suit against Ford. Alex Severinsky started Paice to commercialize his work on a high-voltage method to power gas-electric hybrid motors. From 1999 to 2004, Severinsky and other Paice officials held over 100 meetings and interactions with Ford to help the carmaker develop a hybrid engine that would hike gasoline mileage without losing performance, according to the 50-page complaint.
At the same time, Ford was collaborating with Toyota on a hybrid vehicle based on the Prius. According to Paice, Ford was sharing its technology with Toyota. Paice won a patent-infringement trial against Toyota in 2005 and the two companies inked a global settlement in 2010.