Hybrid Vehicle Litigation Report: Paice’s Patent Progress

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With its seminal patents and continual patent enforcement activity, hybrid vehicle technology company Paice has been a frequent subject of discussion in this space.  In fact, my first post almost ten years ago was about the company’s litigation with Toyota.

There have been a few recent developments to report.

First, in January Paice announced that it had settled its patent litigation with Volkswagen, Audi, and Porsche.  The terms of the settlement agreement are confidential, though Paice said it resolved all legal issues.  Paice had filed an infringement complaint against the German automakers in the U.S. International Trade Commission (ITC) in April 2016.

After that, Paice turned its attention back to Ford, filing a complaint against the American car manufacturer in the ITC in February.

The ITC complaint asserts that Ford’s hybrid vehicles infringe the following patents:

U.S. Patent No. 7,104,347, entitled “Hybrid vehicles” (‘347 Patent)

U.S. Patent No. 7,237,634, entitled “Hybrid vehicles”

U.S. Patent No. 7,455,134, entitled “Hybrid vehicles”

U.S. Patent No. 7,559,388, entitled “Hybrid vehicles” (‘388 Patent)

U.S. Patent No. 8,214,097, entitled “Hybrid vehicles”

The patents are directed to a hybrid electric vehicle controller and related methods for coordinating the operation of the electric motor and gasoline engine of a hybrid vehicle to maximize performance, fuel economy, and emissions efficiency.

Paice alleges that Ford’s hybrid vehicle powertrains and components in the Fusion Hybrid, Fusion Plug-in Hybrid, and Lincoln MKZ Hybrid infringe one or more claims of each of the patents.

Paice and Ford have been involved in hybrid vehicle patent litigation in the past (see, e.g., a prior post here), and Ford has fought back on various fronts, including challenging the ‘347 Patent and the ‘388 Patent in inter partes review (IPR) proceedings in the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO).

After the USPTO’s Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB or Board) invalidated several claims of each patent in separate decisions, Paice appealed those decisions.

Last month, Paice suffered two setbacks when the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit affirmed the PTAB’s IPR decisions on both the ‘347 Patent and the ‘388 Patent (347 Patent Opinion; 388 Patent Opinion).

In each case, the Federal Circuit rejected nearly all of Paice’s arguments regarding interpretation of certain key claim terms, disclosure of the prior art, and obviousness determinations, finding substantial evidence supported the Board’s findings and there was no error in its conclusions.  For the ‘388 Patent, however, the Federal Circuit reversed as to claim 3, finding the dependent claim did not need to fall with the independent claims.

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Eric Lane

Eric Lane, the founder and principal of Green Patent Law, is an intellectual property lawyer and registered U.S. patent attorney in New York and is a member of the bar in New York and California. Eric has more than two decades of experience working with wind, solar PV, CSP, biofuels, and geothermal, energy storage technologies, carbon capture and sequestration, medical devices, data communications, mechanical, chemical, internet and software.