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 . . .