Ford Motor Company is being sued – again. This time the suit involves an alleged patent infringement for a turn signal control used on several Ford and Lincoln vehicles. Ford isn’t alone – TRW, a longtime supplier to the automotive industry based in Livonia, MI, is listed as a co-defendant and “indirect” patent infringer in complaint documents filed in court on February 26th.
According to a complaint filed by Mr. Richard Ponziani in the District Court of the United States for the District of Delaware, Mr. Ponziani is “the sole inventor and assignee of U.S. Patent No. 7,408,455, entitled “Electronic Intelligent Turn Signal Control System,” which issued on August 5, 2008 (the “‘455 Patent”).” Mr. Ponziani alleges in his suit that Ford has knowingly infringed on his patented invention.
According to court documents posted by Automotive News, the Electronic Intelligent Turn Signal Control is designed to automatically activate the right or left turn signal when the driver changes lanes. The system turns the signal off when the driver completes the lane change maneuver using proprietary software and a computer which uses sensors to detect vehicle speed, steering wheel angle and changes to vehicle yaw.*
Court documents say the affected models include the 2010-2014Ford Super Duty Truck, 2010-2014 Ford F Series Truck, 2010-2014 Ford F Series Chassis, 2012-2014 Ford Flex, 2012-2014 Lincoln MKT, 2010-2014 Ford Edge, 2010-2014 Lincoln MKX, 2011-2014 Ford Explorer, 2012-2014 Ford Taurus, 2012-2014 Lincoln MKS, 2012-2014 Ford Fusion, 2012-2014 Lincoln MKZ.
Patent infringement suits are nothing new and auto companies make inviting "deep pocket" targets. One infringement suit filed against Ford was made into a movie. The 2008 motion picture “Flash of Genius” was about a patent infringement case brought against Ford by Robert Kearns, who claimed he invented the electronic control for interval windshield wipers. In the movie, Kearns was played by actor Greg Kinnear. Not counting legal fees, that suit cost Ford $10 million and Chrysler Corporation $18 million.
According to court documents, Mr. Ponziani is demanding a trial by jury. Stay tuned.
*People who are not Automotive News subscribers may not be able to view these documents. The Automotive News article incorrectly states the Intelligent Turn Signal Control System blinks the turn signals three times when the driver touches the control.