Tuesday, September 13, 2005


TOYOTA PRIUS TRANSMISSION TARGETED FOR INFRINGMENT: Solomon Technologies, Inc. announced today that it has filed an action against Toyota Motor Corporation in federal district court in Tampa, Florida for infringement of Solomon's Electric Wheel patent. Solomon alleges that the hybrid transmission drive in the Toyota Prius and Highlander infringes a number of claims contained in its U.S. Patent No. 5,067,932. In the lawsuit Solomon is asking for an injunction barring further infringement as well as damages for the unauthorized use of its patent by Toyota.

Toyota said it may sell as many as 250,000 hybrid cars this year, mainly the Prius model. In 2006 it plans to produce as many as 400,000 hybrids, while trying to lower costs, President Katsuaki Watanabe said Monday in New York. Sales may rise to 1 million in 2010.

The patent generally deals with an integrally formed combination of a motor device and a transmission device, having two power inputs (one being electrical) and a power output having a continuously variable speed of rotation over a large range. Claim 1 reads as follows:

1. A combination motor and transmission device comprising

first power input means for receiving a first input of electrical power,

second power input means for receiving a second input of electrical power, and

power conversion means for converting said electrical power of said first and second inputs for output, said power conversion means including a mechanical power transmission unit, said power transmission unit having two inputs for respectively receiving mechanical power corresponding to said first and second power inputs provided to said first and second power input means and an output for outputting the converted power as rotational mechanical power,

wherein the rotational speed of said output is continuously variable, and said power conversion means includes, for each of said first and second power inputs, a respective integral combination of a respective electric motor element and an element of said mechanical transmission unit, each said integral combination involving said two respective elements thereof being directly associated mechanically and geometrically with each other without substantial spacing or other elements including bearings and shafts therebetween.

That's a lot of claim terms to chew over (and that's one of the broader claims), and pretty much all of the claims are in means-plus-function format. This is going to be an expensive case to litigate. Usually, companies like Toyota aren't all that interested in scorched-earth litigation, so I will predict here that this case will settle by this time next year . . .

5 Comentários:

Charles-A. Rovira said...

Sounds like people who don't make a product are interfering with those who do.

I can buy a Toyota Prius to get around town. I can't buy "Solomon's Electric Wheel" so they'll take me nowhere,

Its Research In Motion and the Blackberry all over again.

Why don't these people have to produce a product? The world could use more products and more competition.

Its the capitalist way. Having a bunch of lawyers sitting on a portfolio of patents is anti-capitalistic.

It should be illegal to squat non-productively on patente in this manner.

Anonymous said...

May want to read here:
http://www.solomontechnologies.com/Solomon%20new/installations.html

The product IS deployed, just not somewhere YOU can access it. We'll see how far this gets I guess.

Shagpal said...

the patent looks very cryptic, but it appears that it is trying to be that way on purpose.

what it seems to try to do, is to patent how a differential or a planet gear system works, which intuitively is like trying to patent the wheel. I see that as too broad, and the patent might invalidate itself with respect to this law suit, and to me, that is Solomon's biggest risk.

also, a differential by it's very nature is a split power device. the entire patent claims to employ either a diff or a set of planet gears, but not both at one time. reads to be an either or approach.

what the patent does attempt to do is to imply that electric motor componets are "rigidly" attached to certain elements of the diff, or of the planet gears. to me, all systems are somehow "rigidly" attached to gears. for instance, A car windshield is rigidly attached the frame, which is rigidly attached to the motor...you get the picture. simply being attached means that the motor is attached to the tranny, which is attached to the driveshaft, etc. etc.

to me, the weakness of the patent is not that it does not have merits, but that it's claims are too broad, and fail to corral the whole concept of gearing arrangements that have been around for a very long time. remember, in patent law, all portions of a patent that try to claim previous inventions, existing, or expired inventions invalidate those portions of the patent that are claiming a new invention. even tho the USPTO granted that patent, it doesn't mean that any claims within the patent have a valid merit as new inventions. and because none of their art work appears to resemble any prius component, I don't think the law suit lacks merit.

Anonymous said...

the patent looks very cryptic, but it appears that it is trying to be that way on purpose.

what it seems to try to do, is to patent how a differential or a planet gear system works, which intuitively is like trying to patent the wheel. I see that as too broad, and the patent might invalidate itself with respect to this law suit, and to me, that is Solomon's biggest risk.

also, a differential by it's very nature is a split power device. the entire patent claims to employ either a diff or a set of planet gears, but not both at one time. reads to be an either or approach.

what the patent does attempt to do is to imply that electric motor componets are "rigidly" attached to certain elements of the diff, or of the planet gears. to me, all systems are somehow "rigidly" attached to gears. for instance, A car windshield is rigidly attached the frame, which is rigidly attached to the motor...you get the picture. simply being attached means that the motor is attached to the tranny, which is attached to the driveshaft, etc. etc.

to me, the weakness of the patent is not that it does not have merits, but that it's claims are too broad, and fail to corral the whole concept of gearing arrangements that have been around for a very long time. remember, in patent law, all portions of a patent that try to claim previous inventions, existing, or expired inventions invalidate those portions of the patent that are claiming a new invention. even tho the USPTO granted that patent, it doesn't mean that any claims within the patent have a valid merit as new inventions. and because none of their art work appears to resemble any prius component, I don't think the law suit lacks merit.

Anonymous said...

some more patents of toyota:

http://www.mycar.net/toyota1.php

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