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Toyota Prius Under Fire For Patent Infringement

CowboyNeal posted more than 8 years ago | from the not-so-fast dept.

Patents 504

tekiegreg writes "According to Auto Service World, Toyota (and possibly other hybrid companies) are guilty of violating a patent with their Prius hybrid Systems. The patent in particular looks like it covers most of how the drive-train and even the braking system of a Toyota Prius functions. The implications of which are big if there is no deal or settlement made (such as ceasing of hybrid vehicles in the United States)."

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Easy Solution. (5, Funny)

yobjob (942868) | more than 8 years ago | (#14462462)

Remove the braking system. No more patent violation!

Re:Easy Solution. (3, Funny)

Elitist_Phoenix (808424) | more than 8 years ago | (#14462515)

Yeah, the yuppies and single women who drive them wouldn't notice the difference anyway.

Re:Easy Solution. (2, Funny)

metricmusic (766303) | more than 8 years ago | (#14462570)

*waves placard*

Implement Flintstones braking tech now!

Maybe NOW the patent system will get fixed.... (0, Redundant)

fdrebin (846000) | more than 8 years ago | (#14462466)

Nah.

/tin hat (5, Funny)

Dr. Eggman (932300) | more than 8 years ago | (#14462467)

It's the oil companies in disguise!

Re:/tin hat (-1, Troll)

Elitist_Phoenix (808424) | more than 8 years ago | (#14462508)

And by "Oil Companies" we mean US DOD

Re:/tin hat (-1, Offtopic)

Vo0k (760020) | more than 8 years ago | (#14462536)

&gtglasses color="black"<
Sir, you're in violation of the Patriot act. Please follow us to the car.
&gt/glasses<

Re:/tin hat (0, Flamebait)

Elitist_Phoenix (808424) | more than 8 years ago | (#14462621)

Sorry I live in a FREE country, you empty-headed animal food trough wiper. I fart in your general direction. Your mother was a hamster and your father smelt of elderberries.

Re:/tin hat (5, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14462532)

I don't know why you got modded funny. It should be a well know fact (especially to /.ers) that OPEC buys up every alternative energy/locomotion patent it can get its hands on, and then calls it "Research".

I'm gonna go research a Mountain Dew...

Re:/tin hat (1)

jackbird (721605) | more than 8 years ago | (#14462785)

It should be a well know fact (especially to /.ers) that OPEC buys up every alternative energy/locomotion patent it can get its hands on, and then calls it "Research".

If that were true, wouldn't these technologies come to market once the patents expire?

Re:/tin hat (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14462807)

if that were true, wouldn't these technologies come to market once the patents expire?
Now THAT should be modded funny. The point is that they swallow up pattents that threaten thier current business model and squat.

Re:/tin hat (1)

elrous0 (869638) | more than 8 years ago | (#14462882)

wouldn't these technologies come to market once the patents expire?

LOL, silly rabiit! Patents, copyrights, and trademarks never expire anymore.

-Eric

Re:/tin hat (1)

jackbird (721605) | more than 8 years ago | (#14462897)

Patents do, and they're what's relevant to this discussion. Next?

Re:/tin hat (1)

fury88 (905473) | more than 8 years ago | (#14462636)

It's the oil companies in disguise!

I wouldn't laugh about that...

Don't laugh! (5, Informative)

aquarian (134728) | more than 8 years ago | (#14462641)

Cobasys, a Texaco subsidiary, holds a patent for NiMH batteries. One of the reasons for the hybrid itself is that it carefully skirts this patent by having the internal combustion engine as the prime mover. A battery-only or battery-mostly vehicle might be subject to prohibitive license fees. This is why pluggable hybrids have not been commercially produced either.

Oil company conspiracy? You decide...

Easy way around that: switch to lithium (5, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14462693)

There's a group of companies developing lithium batteries that have created a patent pool. If your company develops technology for lithium batteries, you pay a fee to get into this group and then you can use for free any lithium patent from any company in the group. Of course, they get to use your patents as well, but with so many people looking out for submarine patents and the fact that your competitors signed a technology sharing agreement, the chance of a lawsuit is minimal.

Diagram (4, Informative)

eldavojohn (898314) | more than 8 years ago | (#14462469)

So if you want a visual of what they're actually talking about, look here [blogspot.com] because that damned patent site refers to images that are nowhere to be found. I think that linked diagram refers to the numbers that the patent information initially state about the design of it.

Re:Diagram (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14462853)

So if you want a visual of what they're actually talking about, look here because that damned patent site refers to images that are nowhere to be found.

Perhaps the images are collected under the LARGE RED OUTLINE BUTTON LABELED "IMAGES" at the top of the linked page.

Sincerely,

A patent attorney.

Theyre patent is pretty complete (3, Interesting)

SkullOne (150150) | more than 8 years ago | (#14462471)

Theyre patent is pretty complete, but only filed in 1990.
Unfortunately, I think reclaiming breaking energy with an electric motor was thought of, and used much earlier then that.

Re:Theyre patent is pretty complete (4, Informative)

sphealey (2855) | more than 8 years ago | (#14462502)

> Unfortunately, I think reclaiming breaking
> energy with an electric motor was thought of,
> and used much earlier then that.

Around 1870 in fact.

sPh

Re:Theyre patent is pretty complete (4, Informative)

Gordonjcp (186804) | more than 8 years ago | (#14462524)

"Diesel Traction - A Manual for Enginemen", Copyright 1962 by the British Transport Commission, describes using regenerative braking where you use the traction motors in diesel-electric power cars as generators, feeding the current into banks of resistors bolted to the chassis. Somewhere around page 160-odd, about the bit where it's talking about wheel slip detection circuits and stuff.


I know I saw Telma [telmausa.com] retarders on buses, long before 1990. They work on the same principle.

Re:Theyre patent is pretty complete (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14462509)

Yep. At the very least, the MF77 [wikipedia.org] suburban trains in Paris (built by Alstom, with at least part of the design by the RATP -- the transport operator -- itself) did use it right from their debut (late seventies).

Re:Theyre patent is pretty complete (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14462527)

Yeah...isn't that the whole concept behind the Dynamic Braking Systems in most, if not all, modern deisel locomotives?
A quick search on Google resulted in the following article from Trains magazine:
http://www.trains.com/Content/Dynamic/Articles/000 /000/003/079uwrak.asp [trains.com]

They bascially state that modern Dynamic Braking, where the locomotive's traction motors are set as a generator, slows the train. The resulting electrical current is simply disposed of as heat via banks of resistors.
However, the article mentions that in its predecessor, Regenerative Braking, the electrical current developed by one train's braking was applied toward another train's accelleration.

Sounds like prior art to me, but I didn't RTFA to see how specific the patent was.

Re:Theyre patent is pretty complete (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14462558)

Their patent is pretty complete, but only filed in 1990.

Unfortunately, I think reclaiming breaking energy with an electric motor was thought of, and used much earlier then that.

Re:Theyre patent is pretty complete (1)

91degrees (207121) | more than 8 years ago | (#14462590)

Patents are often more specific than that. There are a number of ways to implement regenerative braking. Toyota may well infrnge on the specific method indicaed in the patent.

Re:Theyre patent is pretty complete (1)

DrSkwid (118965) | more than 8 years ago | (#14462754)

than that

Re:Theyre patent is pretty complete (1)

The Impossible (17916) | more than 8 years ago | (#14462567)

Theyre patent is pretty complete, but only filed in 1990.
Unfortunately, I think reclaiming breaking energy with an electric motor was thought of, and used much earlier then that.


That doesn't matter in the US patent system. The first one to patent something, has the rights.

The european system is a lot easier. When there is an article or a prototype officially made available before patenting, no patent is gruanted. (as you can't prove you were the person inventing the idea.
This system is fair, as it doesn't punish the inventor, when he forgets to file a patent, he just doesn't get anything. (not even a bill from the person patenting it after his invention)

Re:Theyre patent is pretty complete (4, Informative)

thebdj (768618) | more than 8 years ago | (#14462745)

EPO and for that matter every country (or at least the vast majority) use a first to file system. So an inventor often gets punished because big company X can file before they can since they have the money to start what is a very costly procedure. In the US Patent System, it is a first to invent. If two entities have filed for the same patent an interference procedure is followed where the Board of Patent Appeals and Interferences (BPAI) will hold a hearing and make a determination based on the facts presented by both who was the first to actually invent the application.

Under the US Patent System, it counts as prior art if it was published by "others" (this means any person or group of persons different from the applicant) before the invention of the device. This is called 102(a) and they can swear behind this using the whole first to invent idea. Initially, items are considered "invented" when tey are filed. It also counts if a publication is made or it is in "use" (in the terms of in the public already) by anyone (including applicants) more then 1 year prior to the earliest US filing date. This is a 102(b) and a so-called "statutory bar". There is no way to swear behind these kinds of references. The final one that is commonly used is if a published US application or Patent was filed before the filing date of the current invention by another (this also applies to WIPO filing dates). This is called a 102(e) and like 102(a) is based on invention date so it can also be sworn behind.

I think you need to clarify the prototype being officially made statement. I cannot speak certainly for EPO or other patent offices, but the general idea is that the item described in the Patent Application has actually been invented. As such, there had better be a prototype of some sort sitting around somewhere. Most all patent laws center around a publication or existance of an item that is known to the public in same.

Re:Theyre patent is pretty complete (5, Informative)

Phreakiture (547094) | more than 8 years ago | (#14462652)

[Their] patent is pretty complete, but only filed in 1990.

Unfortunately, I think reclaiming [braking] energy with an electric motor was thought of, and used much earlier [than] that.

I seem to recall an article that was published in the late 1980s in Popular Science profiling a prototype hybrid car that was called the Uniq. It had regenerative braking.

Rail locomotives have had "Dynamic braking" for decades, in which energy is reclaimed from the wheels, but it is subsequently burned off in a huge resistor, but it is at least half of the formula.

So that takes regenerative braking itself off the table as far as prior art. That leaves the combiner gearbox.

The Uniq used no combiner gearbox, and neither do Honda's hybrids. Toyota has done a better job at marketing their hybrid drive, but Hondas are actually getting better MPG without the combiner gearbox (though a pure electric mode is not possible).

The bottom line is: There is some prior art; it is probably not enough to help Toyota with their immediate problem, but not all hybrids are affected.

There is prior art (1)

Adrian.Challlinor (834846) | more than 8 years ago | (#14462776)

Back in 1980-82, I worked for GEC Traction at Trafford Park, Manchester. We had an implemented design to use electro-restive breaking in diesel/electric trains, which we added to full electric trains. We then advanced this in to use with trams and (if memory serves) we looked at putting it on duel-fuel buses. This is back in 1982, so I think this predates this patent.

Re:Theyre patent is pretty complete (3, Interesting)

bojanb (162938) | more than 8 years ago | (#14462789)

I've read the patent and from what little I know of Toyota's Hybrid Synergy Drive from Wikipedia [wikipedia.org] it does seem related.

Regenerative braking is a red herring. What's special about Toyota's HSD on Prius is the drivetrain, and that's exactly what they're talking about in the patent.

The caveat - the patent was filed in 1991, don't patents expire after 14 years?

fp (-1, Offtopic)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14462472)

in soviet russia patent owns you

"Surfacing, Captain" (5, Insightful)

No Such Agency (136681) | more than 8 years ago | (#14462474)

Man, people who deliberately use "submarine patents" to try and make money off a popular technology really bug me. As do "technology companies" whose sole business model is to own patents. They wait and see, and if the tech becomes successful, they pounce. If it flops they stay away and let the infringer take the loss.

I respect the rights of patent owners, and I'm not sure how you could legally sanction this berhaviour without harming patent holders' legitimate rights, but the practice is just plain sleazy.

Now it may be that they have had suit against Toyota ever since the hybrid came on the market, and this is just a recent expansion of that suit, in which case they are not being weasels...

Re:"Surfacing, Captain" (5, Informative)

z0idberg (888892) | more than 8 years ago | (#14462531)

If you take a look at the patent holding companies website (Solomon Technologies inc. ) it looks like they developed the technology and have been implementing it (in sailing vessels) for some time.

From their FAQ:

What is the Electric Wheel(TM)?
The Electric Wheel(TM) is a new technology motor (first patented in 1991) that significantly improves and exceeds the net horsepower output of existing electric and fossil fuel motors. Solomon Technologies currently provides three series of motor systems built on this technology; the ST37, the ST58 and the ST74. They have been designed for use in marine environments. The ST58 combines variable torque converters, brushless motors with Neodymium Iron Boron (NeFe B) magnets, and a powerful regenerative feedback function that converts the motor(s) into a generator of electricity to recharge the batteries while under sail, and provide electrical power to other appliances on the boat.

So looks like they are legit (or are a very elaborate front :-) )

Re:"Surfacing, Captain" (3, Insightful)

dotwaffle (610149) | more than 8 years ago | (#14462699)

As a UK citizen, I'm unfamiliar with US law - how long does a US patent last? I assumed it was 5 years, considering this patent was filed in 1991 (if I read correctly) it must be at least 15 years monopoly - something that seams completely unfair to the progression of business...

Maybe the US (and indeed most countries) need to re-evaluate the law pertaining to patent law, what it was created for, and what it should cover today. Also, copyright law needs looking at - I'm pretty disgusted with the UK version as it stands, I'm sure the US has an equally if not worse one. 25 years or death plus 5 years sounds fair. After then, it doesn't mean no-one owns it, it means everyone owns it, surely?

Re:"Surfacing, Captain" (2, Informative)

thebdj (768618) | more than 8 years ago | (#14462765)

20 years from the filing date of the application. I do not think it is as low as 5 anywhere in the world. This is of course only for Utility Patents. I think Design Patents are 14 years and I have no clue about Plant Patents.

Re:"Surfacing, Captain" (2, Informative)

PianoComp81 (589011) | more than 8 years ago | (#14462837)

As a UK citizen, I'm unfamiliar with US law - how long does a US patent last? I assumed it was 5 years, considering this patent was filed in 1991 (if I read correctly) it must be at least 15 years monopoly - something that seams completely unfair to the progression of business...
Take a look at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Term_of_patent_in_the _United_States [wikipedia.org] . In general, it's 20 years (17 for patents before 1995, as this one was)

The main reason for making it so long is that people and companies typically file the patent while R&D is still going on. It can take 5-10 years (or more) after the patent is filed for the product to come to market. This is especially true with drugs in the United States, as the process with the FDA takes an extremely long time.

Re:"Surfacing, Captain" (1)

joepeg (87984) | more than 8 years ago | (#14462769)

Mod up parent. Although I agree patent hoarding companies are a nuisance and benefit nothing other than their pockets, this company does not appear to be one of those.

Re:"Surfacing, Captain" (5, Informative)

tdemark (512406) | more than 8 years ago | (#14462543)

I respect the rights of patent owners, and I'm not sure how you could legally sanction this berhaviour without harming patent holders' legitimate rights, but the practice is just plain sleazy.

If a product that uses your patent without an agreement in place is on the market for X months and you, the patent holder, do not challenge such use, a license is automatically granted for that product.

If you have reason to believe a product is using your patent, you can file a challenge with the patent office stating so. The company offering the product has to respond saying that they are or are not violating your patent. If they say they are not, the previous "X month" window gets extended to the full term of the patent for that product. If they aren't using your patent, this has no effect. If they are using your patent, and tell the patent office they aren't, you now have the full term of the patent to prove them wrong.

You can only exercise this challenge Y times over the life of the patent. Y will not include any challenge that is upheld, either initially or after the fact.

Re:"Surfacing, Captain" (1)

nahdude812 (88157) | more than 8 years ago | (#14462830)

I think this is an interesting idea, but I feel like it's got a few flaws:

If a product that uses your patent without an agreement in place is on the market for X months and you, the patent holder, do not challenge such use, a license is automatically granted for that product.

So I could get myself a license by producing a product, and making sure it's low enough on the radar that it never blips on the patent holder's screen (for example, sell it to a few "customers" for whom I do the same sort of favor in return, and never advertise it).

You can only exercise this challenge Y times over the life of the patent. Y will not include any challenge that is upheld, either initially or after the fact.

In this case, in the case of a really valuable patent, I could set up Y veil companies who are talking about the new "product" they are producing, which provides just enough details to make it appear as if perhaps they're violating your patent. You can challenge all the companies, and when it's discovered that they're not in fact violating the patent (since perhaps they're all vaporware), you've used up your right to challenge. If you fail to challenge any of them for the aforementioned window of opportunity to challenge the use of the patented tech, then whatever company was unchallenged suddenly de-vaporizes their product, and surprise surprise, it uses the patented technology, now granted an implicit license.

Re:"Surfacing, Captain" (1)

Enry (630) | more than 8 years ago | (#14462846)

If you took your entire post, replaced the word "patent" with "copyright" then you'd be correct. Patents can be selectively enforced at any time during its lifetime. See what happened with GIF [wikipedia.org] as an example.

Re:"Surfacing, Captain" (1)

Jamil Karim (931849) | more than 8 years ago | (#14462895)

This doesn't adequately protect patent holders. If tons of companies decide to rip your patent, you probably aren't going to catch all of them. There will always be "the one that got away."

Suggestion (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14462554)

How about if you claim patent infringement you have to show that you are using or developing a commercial application for it. This could include licencing for legitimate use (such as is the case for chemical process technology companies)

Limit patent transferability (4, Interesting)

scsirob (246572) | more than 8 years ago | (#14462559)

Simple solution.. Only the original inventor gets to benefit from having invented something. If the inventor (either private or company) decides to sell it's assets, then any patents become void and the knowledge public domain.

Re:Limit patent transferability (1)

Mr. Underbridge (666784) | more than 8 years ago | (#14462581)

Simple solution.. Only the original inventor gets to benefit from having invented something. If the inventor (either private or company) decides to sell it's assets, then any patents become void and the knowledge public domain. That's a really crappy "solution," as you've just limited patents even more to the large corporations. There's nothing wrong with a little guy inventing something, patenting it, and licensing it for commercialization. Otherwise, you're saying that to invent anything you have to have the necessary capital to build a factory, and that sucks.

Re:Limit patent transferability (1)

Itchy Rich (818896) | more than 8 years ago | (#14462720)

That's a really crappy "solution," as you've just limited patents even more to the large corporations. There's nothing wrong with a little guy inventing something, patenting it, and licensing it for commercialization. Otherwise, you're saying that to invent anything you have to have the necessary capital to build a factory, and that sucks.

I don't think that's what he meant. I took his suggestion to mean that only the original patent filer could hold the patent. That person or organisation could then licence the patent however they wanted.

Re:Limit patent transferability (3, Insightful)

syslog (535048) | more than 8 years ago | (#14462587)

Who would buy the company if the patents that made it supposedly successful were not applicable upon purchase?

Mind you, I *am* against the current patent system, I just don't think your suggestion would fly ;)

-naeem

Re:Limit patent transferability (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14462782)

Dumb idea. Patents represent actual property. That would be like the government telling you that you couldn't resell your car.

Re:Limit patent transferability (0)

alexo (9335) | more than 8 years ago | (#14462835)


> Dumb idea. Patents represent actual property. That would be like the government telling you that you couldn't resell your car.

Um, no.

Patents are not property.
They are a set of exclusive rights granted by a government to a person for a fixed period of time in exchange for the regulated, public disclosure of certain details of an invention.

Re:"Surfacing, Captain" (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14462679)

I respect the rights of patent owners

I don't. A patent is by definition a monopoly privilege and runs counter to liberty (and free-market capitalism! hypocritical damn corpies). A patent is a terribly powerful legal tool, and, while I don't necessarily disagree with rewarding inventors, I don't think that reward should _ever_ be a monopoly grant.

Just because currently patent holders are legally capable of preventing me (legally) making and doing as I see fit with my own materials and intellect, doesn't mean it's somehow "right" that they can: "ILLEGAL" DOES NOT MEAN "WRONG". Current laws are being written by the corrupt for the corrupt.

I swear, patent monopolies will be abolished before I die.

Re:"Surfacing, Captain" (1)

EElyn (928932) | more than 8 years ago | (#14462838)

I totally agree.

But how do patents actually work? If say I invented X and didn't know that you too had invented X, would I then be in infringement?

I come to think about the Clean Room Design [wikipedia.org] method where one apparently is allowed to reverse engineer any copyrighted product as long as you recreate a design spec solely based on "observation".

Can the same be done for patents issues? Say you had invented X, could I then "observe" and "reinvent" X?

Summary is a little misleading (5, Informative)

cdrudge (68377) | more than 8 years ago | (#14462479)

"According to Auto Service World, Toyota (and possibly other hybrid companies)
The article mentions no other hybrid companies. The only companies mentioned are either Solomon Technologies, the patent holder, and various different divisions of Toyota. The "and possibly other hybrid companies" is just pure speculation.

are guilty of violating a patent with their Prius hybrid Systems.
The article just says that Solomon is taking their complaint to the ITC to block Toyota from importing more vehicles. ITC can't rule guilt or fine Toyota. If Toyota manufactured the vehicles here, it likely would circumvent anything the ITC could do. There has been no admission of guilt by Toyota so the only other place guilt can be determined is in a court of law. Until the case currently in US District Court is ruled on, there is no guilt. Only accusations.

The implications of which are big if there is no deal or settlement made (such as ceasing of hybrid vehicles in the United States)."
No. In the case of the article it just would mean Toyota couldn't import hybrid vehicles of this design (presuming they don't license the patent and settle the District Court case). They would either have to make them state-side or find a different design. Beleive it or not, there is more then one way to design a hybrid vehicle. This ruling wouldn't have an immediate effect on other manufacturers of hybrid vehicles although it might set a precident for future litigation.

Re:Summary is a little misleading (2, Informative)

Dr_LHA (30754) | more than 8 years ago | (#14462555)

The "and possibly other hybrid companies" is just pure speculation.

Indeed, hence the correct usage of the word "probably".

Re:Summary is a little misleading (1)

Dr_LHA (30754) | more than 8 years ago | (#14462599)

DUH, of course I mean "possibly". God I hate the fact you can't edit comments on Slashdot. :)

Re:Summary is a little misleading (1)

nemski (587833) | more than 8 years ago | (#14462562)

You think? Tried and convicted in a /. summary. ;-)

The patent (1)

ngg (193578) | more than 8 years ago | (#14462492)

IANAL. I only read the abstract of TFA, which is not the legaly meaningful part. With that in mind, it seems that the patent only covers a transmission with an integrated electric motor that happens to use a planetary gear (or differential). Does anyone know if 1) Toyota's synergy drive has an integrated tranny/electric motor and 2)said transmission uses a planetary gear?

Re:The patent (5, Informative)

panthro (552708) | more than 8 years ago | (#14462530)

Yes, and yes. The thing in question here is Toyota's Power Split Device [howstuffworks.com] , which is a constantly-engaged planetary gear set that acts as a transmission and drives (or is partially driven by) the electric motor/generator. Which appears to be exactly what the patent describes.

Re:The patent (3, Insightful)

Inspector Lopez (466767) | more than 8 years ago | (#14462644)

... however, this "constantly engaged planetary gear" has exactly the same function as a conventional differential, which connects a drive shaft to two wheels, permitting the wheels to spin at different speeds (particularly useful for cornering). In fact, this is mentioned within the patent text. The only difference is that this planetary gear assembly is coaxial.

I'm a little puzzled by the timing of this suit, which has emerged a full five years after Prius models have been available, and I don't think it was particularly secret that they were developing hybrid vehicles before 2000. (I own a 2000 model myself.) Did Solomon forget they had this patent? Wouldn't the doctrine of laches apply here? http://www.lectlaw.com/def/l056.htm [lectlaw.com] .

Even in 1990 (when the patent was issued) wouldn't a gear assembly like this have been obvious to any knowledgable practitioner of the art?

good patent? (-1, Troll)

Stan Vassilev (939229) | more than 8 years ago | (#14462497)

I've yet to see an example where a patent did good.

Flash Player licensed that patented text rendering tech from Mitsubishi Labs, but it's weirdly colored and looks like a christmas tree so that doesn't count.

Re:good patent? (2, Insightful)

RichMeatyTaste (519596) | more than 8 years ago | (#14462525)

FYI: I'm not defending all patents.

That being said: where do you think R&D money comes from?

Once example: You do realize that developing new medicines costs a crapload of money right? You do realize that companies who develop medicines depend on patents to guarantee that it cannot be copied so they can make more money and make more medicines right? Thankfully, the patents expire and the drugs become generics, bringing costs down.

R&D costs money, plain and simple. One day maybe we will adopt the Star Trek method (everyone works for the common good) but I just don't see it happening in my lifetime. Hell I would do it if everyone else would!

Re:good patent? (1, Insightful)

giorgiofr (887762) | more than 8 years ago | (#14462557)

Developing new medicines costs a lot because of the high barrier to entry imposed by the gov't with the loads of regulation that it's forcing on the market. If such market (and all other) were deregulated, costs would plummet. But hey, regulation is so good - otherwise, how would you stop teh 3vil capital1s7 haX0rz from 0wnzor1^H^H^H^H^H?H^H'sploiting the proletarians?

No (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14462606)

If such markets were unregulated, you'd be sold snake oil.

Re:good patent? (1, Interesting)

Alarash (746254) | more than 8 years ago | (#14462564)

Patents that prevent companies to contribute to save the planet should be revoked, or moved to the public domain, or whatever the procedure is. Nobody should be able to force you to stop making efforts to pollute less.

Re:good patent? (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14462642)

That is fine, but how about this for an idea. Require companies to sell licenses for their patents to anyone who wants to buy one, if need be on a per unit basis. The company can negotiate a price and if the negotiations fail after a given period of time, then an arbriter is brought in to help force a decision. This keeps some of the competition allowing the market to do it's stuff while reimbursing the patent holder. Since the negotiations will take time you also still give first mover advantage to the patent originator, and they have a chance to establish themselves in a monopoly position before their competitors get into the market.

PFE

Re:good patent? (3, Informative)

Epeeist (2682) | more than 8 years ago | (#14462669)

> That being said: where do you think R&D money comes from?

> Once example: You do realize that developing new medicines costs a crapload of money right?
> You do realize that companies who develop medicines depend on patents to guarantee that it
> cannot be copied so they can make more money and make more medicines right? Thankfully, the
> patents expire and the drugs become generics, bringing costs down.

Pharmaceutical companies do spend a fair amount on R & D. However, it is nowhere near as much as they spend on marketing. The reality is that they are using patents to control the market, not to recoup their R & D investment.

Re:good patent? (2, Insightful)

Znork (31774) | more than 8 years ago | (#14462678)

"You do realize that companies who develop medicines depend on patents to guarantee that it cannot be copied so they can make more money and make more medicines right?"

The vast majority, more than 80%, of the patent generated revenues in the pharm industry does not go to R&D. It goes to marketing, administration and comparatively horridly inefficient production. Take a look at any pharmaceuticals financial reports some time.

You do realize that we'd get five times the current amount of R&D if we simply paid for it outright? Or the same amount of R&D for a fifth of the cost? And that's being generous and not counting the likelyhood that a large part of the R&D is comparatively inefficient due to decades of monopoly protection.

You do realize that state-granted monopoly rights is one of the most inefficient ways to generate financial incentives conceivable?

Is it good news or bad news? (4, Funny)

Vo0k (760020) | more than 8 years ago | (#14462510)

Google Under Fire For Patent Infringement - bad news.
Microsoft Under Fire For Patent Infringement - good news.
Sun Under Fire For Patent Infringement - depends on wind direction and world series basketball results.
Do we love or hate Toyota Prius?

Re:Is it good news or bad news? (0)

dema (103780) | more than 8 years ago | (#14462595)

... world series basketball results.

In the words of the common gamer, ROFLMAO.

Re:Is it good news or bad news? (1)

Elitist_Phoenix (808424) | more than 8 years ago | (#14462632)

Depends what operating system the engineers used to design it ;)

Re:Is it good news or bad news? (2, Funny)

Peeptophe (252809) | more than 8 years ago | (#14462788)

People who make an irrelevant attempt to bash Microsoft because they think they will get a "Funny" mod on /. given a boot to the head....Priceless.

i hate you (-1, Offtopic)

tralfamador (159554) | more than 8 years ago | (#14462805)

you are worthless. as are the mods who consider that post funny.

Limited problem (4, Insightful)

overshoot (39700) | more than 8 years ago | (#14462529)

It also expires in three years.

This actually looks like a reasonable patent -- the inventor did come up with a reasonably novel approach to getting decent efficiency out of electric motors under varying load conditions, and published it via the patent system long ago.

The auto companies pay plenty in patent royalties every year, and if they'd negotiated terms before using this (which may well be tracable to their designs) then I doubt they'd have had to pay much. They may not have to pay all that much now, hard to say.

Re:Limited problem (2, Interesting)

peragrin (659227) | more than 8 years ago | (#14462591)

Yea three years till the patent expires but the Prius has been available for sale for the past 5. Where was this guy 5 years ago?

This is just submarine patenting. Toyota put out commercials describing the basics of the car. If that's not enough to get you to take a closer look for possible infringment, then you should lose any chance of getting money.

Re:Limited problem (2, Interesting)

thebdj (768618) | more than 8 years ago | (#14462867)

You are misusing the term submarine patent. It was not hidden away from human eyes. The patent was published on issuance 14 years ago. In order to be, "submarine patenting" a patent must be unpublished and suddenly appear in a manner as to "surprise" the market.

I would venture a guess that many companies go patent hunting before creating new products, and if Toyota were to perform such a practice they surely would have noticed this one in their search (you would think). There are several possible reasons for a five-year delay in a lawsuit.

They would need to first show some degree of infringement. This would require them to examine the specifications of the Toyota Prius. The next step would be to contact Toyota and offer then licensing. You do not jump straight to court. Afterall, why rush into a court case when the company might be reasonable and notice the infringement is there? Believe it or not, this does happen on occassion. After giving reasonable time for a response, a few months to a year probably, you would then begin collecting your evidence and filing your briefs.

So I would say 5 yrs for this entire process is not completely ridiculous.

Re:Limited problem (1)

GigsVT (208848) | more than 8 years ago | (#14462872)

Technically it's not submarine patents.

That referred to a specific practice of filing extensions with the patent office to delay approval of an unpublished patent until after the patent was in common use. That way you got 17 full years of royalties on a patent no one even knew existed, and that everyone was infringing on. That practice has been almost eliminated by the patent office changing the rules to require publication earler.

This is just a case of delayed enforcement. While Toyota could argue the patent holder is guilty of laches and is not eligible to enforce the patent anymore, that's a different matter.

Re:Limited problem (2, Interesting)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14462618)

Except that "coming up with a novel approach" isn't supposed to be patentable. *Invention* is the only thing supposed to be patented. I can sit on my arse all day and think up "novel approaches". That fact that they are infeasible now and that I'm not doing anything to make them more feasible is irrelevant to our current patent system. The fact that they aren't novel and have been used for hundreds of years is also, apparently, irrelevant. All I have to do is change one insignificant thing, or add one unrelated detail, and it's all good. Frankly I don't see how this concept would be pantentable even if it were the first instance of the idea. To an electric vehicle engineer, this has got to count as obvious. Where the hell else are you going to look for power to recharge your battery?

Infinit Speed !!! (4, Funny)

metarox (883747) | more than 8 years ago | (#14462541)

From the patent title :
Dual-input infinite-speed integral motor and transmission device
Now that's cool!

Re:Infinit Speed !!! (0, Offtopic)

hotdiggitydawg (881316) | more than 8 years ago | (#14462677)

Obligatory Spaceballs quote:

Colonel Sandurz: Prepare ship for light speed!
Dark Helmet: No no no, light speed is too slow!
Colonel Sandurz: Light speed too slow?
Dark Helmet: Yes, we're gonna have to go right to... ludicrous speed!
Colonel Sandurz: Ludicrous speed? Sir, we've never gone that fast before. I don't know if this ship can take it!
Dark Helmet: Whatsa matter, Colonel Sandurz? Chicken?

Re:Infinit Speed !!! (1)

yancey (136972) | more than 8 years ago | (#14462874)

How do get a patent for an "infinite-speed" device? Sounds like some kind of "free energy" scam to me, probably due to "zero-point" energy and having to with "wormholes" and "warps" and crystals and all that jazz. ;-)

Didn't Toyota already research this? (1)

digitaldc (879047) | more than 8 years ago | (#14462560)

I have to wonder why Toyota would be so negligent in its actions, unless they knew they were not infringing on anything?

The Solomon company uses their technology primarily for boats and not cars, maybe that is why Toyota thought their system was different enough that it didn't infringe on their patents.

Another example of patents in good use (5, Insightful)

The OPTiCIAN (8190) | more than 8 years ago | (#14462569)

Thank heavens we have those patents to encourage innovation. The invention would never have happened otherwise.

Er, Um, Patents Are Not Holy (1, Insightful)

Ancient_Hacker (751168) | more than 8 years ago | (#14462584)

All Toyota has to do is set 1% of its lawyers to work to overturn the patent. The patent office will let you patent most anything-- they do very little search for no-nos like prior art, prior disclosure, or the many other details that can invalidate a patent.

Electric braking and planetary transmissions have bveen around for about a century-- there's probably 1,000 prior patents and prior art in that genre.

With just a preliminary survey like that, Toyota can have a mighty strong negotiating position with the new patent holders. Like "here's $23,000, take it or have to spend about $5 million defending your patent."

There are a couple of assumptions there. (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14462630)

A couple of cases come to mind: NTP vs. Rim and SCO vs. the world. It's hard to squash these patent extortion schemes.

The more common senario is we give you a million dollars for your worthless patent and you go away and don't bug us anymore. Somehow these nusance companies come up with the money to pay the lawyers. It can cost over a hundred million to defend yourself against a patent vulture. A million (or even ten million) to settle is cheap compared with the alternative.

Re:There are a couple of assumptions there. (1)

thebdj (768618) | more than 8 years ago | (#14462891)

SCO v. the World is copyright infringement not patent infringement. This is a whole other beast unto itself, and one that is quite possibly in as bad of shape as the Patent System. I mean the term for copyright alone are enough to make you cringe.

Re:Er, Um, Patents Are Not Holy (1)

dulles (86837) | more than 8 years ago | (#14462645)

For that price Toyota could just as well give 'em a Prius!

Re:Er, Um, Patents Are Not Holy (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14462732)

Actually they have already financed their ligigation costs for the lawsuit. A finance company is picking up the costs of litigation for a piece of the settlement action:
http://www.solomontechnologies.com/Solomon%20new/A rticle_Arranges_Lit_Fin.htm [solomontechnologies.com]

So the litigation isn't money out of their pocket.

Due Diligence (4, Interesting)

hoophead (945630) | more than 8 years ago | (#14462601)

My patent law is a little rusty, but doesn't the patent owner have to claim infringement within a reasonable amount of time? How long has the Prius been out - 2 or 3 years? ANd they are just filing a claim now? The upshot is that if I own a patent, I can't just wait for years while it is infringed, and then come in and claim my triple damages based on the other guy's work. I have to challenge within a reasonable amount of time, or else the infringer has "squatter's rights".

Re:Due Diligence (1)

hatton64 (765014) | more than 8 years ago | (#14462707)

The first prius in the US was a 2001 Model Year, Wich as we all know came out in 2000. So that would be more like 5-6 years... if that is reasonable time or not I do not know IANAL

Re:Due Diligence (1)

AVee (557523) | more than 8 years ago | (#14462731)

My patent law is a little rusty, but doesn't the patent owner have to claim infringement within a reasonable amount of time?

I don't think so. Not that I know anything about patent law, but the whole Eolas browser plugin patent would have been voided years ago if this where true. I do think some kind of 'defend it or lose it' rule (a exists with trademarks) whould be a good idea for patents...

Re:Due Diligence (1, Informative)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14462786)

Don't listen to the AC, but I think that's trademark law, not patent law.

Toyota infringed? never! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14462604)

Toyota is well known in the racing community for stealing technology. I'm not talking about stealing the design for a valve stem, I'm talking about stealing the design of the entire motor. They aren't even building their own cars for F1, they bought out a company to build the cars for them. I went to the USGP a couple years ago, and when the toyotas broke, everybody laughed at them.

Re:Toyota infringed? never! (2, Insightful)

panthro (552708) | more than 8 years ago | (#14462617)

Do you work for Ford?

Re:Toyota infringed? never! (0)

Anonymous Coward | more than 8 years ago | (#14462665)

It's not like the ENTIRE FUCKING INDUSTRY copies Toyota's production techniques, is it?

Blah (0, Troll)

NokX (921152) | more than 8 years ago | (#14462646)

if anything - sue 'em for making an ugly car. honestly, how come these new hybrid cars are so nasty?

Re:Blah (2, Informative)

minkie (814488) | more than 8 years ago | (#14462709)

The physics of aerodynamics pretty much drives the exterior shape of the car if you want to get good highway mileage.

This patent doesn't cover Prius' s drive (5, Interesting)

Dr. Crash (237179) | more than 8 years ago | (#14462690)

Lesson 1: READ THE CLAIMS.

Note that every claim is either a "base claim", that is, that starts a new description, or is a
"subsidiary claim" that depends or extends another claim.

Lesson 2: READ THE BASE CLAIMS TWICE.

The base claims are the patent's "weak spots" - if you can just dodge every base claim, then
the patent doesn't apply to you.

Notice that in this patent every base claim says "electrical" on both power inputs. That's
a major flaw; this patent has no claims that cover the case of only one electrical power
input and one of a totally other kind of power.

Lesson 3: THERE IS NO INFRINGEMENT IF NONE OF THE CLAIMS APPLY.

The Prius driveline doesn't use an electrical motor on BOTH inputs, only on one. Hence it does
not infringe.

Next? :)

Re:This patent doesn't cover Prius' s drive (1)

1evilmonkey (837713) | more than 8 years ago | (#14462718)

Toyota will probably end up buying the company. No worries.

Seems semi valid (2, Interesting)

Fr05t (69968) | more than 8 years ago | (#14462761)

Really, the company holding this patent does actually use it. From what I gathered it has a lot to do with the braking system being used to charge the battery.

I'm guessing / hoping Toyota and this company will both be reasonable and find a fair way to settle this. Where this isn't a 'completely frivolous' case, where the patent holder is a company setup to make money off it's patents (which it doesn't use), I think they'll at least be reasonable.

Doesn't matter (1)

theRiallatar (584902) | more than 8 years ago | (#14462767)

This doesn't matter. The patent expires in four years.

30,000+ prior patents on this (1)

Ancient_Hacker (751168) | more than 8 years ago | (#14462780)

A quick scan of the patent database shows about 11,500 patents with "planetary transmission" in them. About 22,000 with "electric braking".

Even if 99% of those are false hits, that still leaves about 300+ patents that just might have prior art or patent rights that this alleged patent infringes on.

Doesnt look too good for these noobies.

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