Just before a hearing was about to take place over a patent infringement claim by Paice LLC against Toyota Motor Corp. before the US International Trade Commission, it was announced that a settlement had been reached. This patent claim had put at risk Toyota's imports of its latest hybrid vehicles, including the Prius. The settlement terms weren't disclosed.
Last week, Paice also entered into a settlement with Ford Motor Co. but the terms weren't divulged either. Alex Severinsky, the founder of Paice, is a 65-year-old Soviet emigrant who jumpstarted his career by developing antitank-warfare instrumentation.
He claimed that without his permission, Toyota used his 1994 patented system for a high-voltage method to power gas-electric hybrid cars. For the past several years, Severinsky has been trying to get Toyota to pay royalties.
In an interview this week, Severinsky was quoted to have said: "Finally people understand the merits of what I invented and give it the proper value." He said that Toyota "finally appreciates the value of the invention." The patent is centered on a method to supply torque to a car's wheels from both an electric motor and internal combustion engine using a combination of high voltage and low current.
The odds were against Toyota as it had been found to be guilty of infringing this patent in an earlier case. Toyota's argument is that it made its own research to come up with its hybrid vehicles.
Toyota had requested that the trade commission deny Severinsky's latest claims. The ITC, an independent agency that seeks to protect US markets from unfair trade practices, has the power to ban the imports of products that have been found to have infringed patents. Unless there are health or public-policy issues involved, the ITC typically rules in favor of patent owners.