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Patent Claim Could Block Import of Toyota's Hybrid Cars 451

JynxMe writes "Paice is a tiny Florida company that has patented a way to apply force to a car's wheels from an electric motor or internal combustion engine. Paice thinks that Toyota is infringing on its technology, and is going after the automaker in court. The legal spat became much more serious for Toyota this week, when the US International Trade Commission decided to investigate the matter. In the worst-case scenario for Toyota, the commission could ban the hybrid Camry, third-generation Prius, Lexus HS250h sedan and Lexus RX450h SUV."
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Patent Claim Could Block Import of Toyota's Hybrid Cars

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  • Filing date (Score:5, Informative)

    by glam0006 ( 471393 ) on Thursday October 08, 2009 @05:16PM (#29686113)

    The filing date is May 8, 2006. Really? This technology wasn't around before then?

  • by sharkb8 ( 723587 ) on Thursday October 08, 2009 @05:21PM (#29686157)
    1. A hybrid vehicle, comprising: at least two pairs of wheels, each pair of wheels operable to receive power to propel said hybrid vehicle; a first alternating current (AC) electric motor, operable to provide power to a first pair of said at least two pairs of wheels to propel said hybrid vehicle; a second alternating current (AC) electric motor, operable to provide power to a second pair of said at least two pairs of wheels to propel said hybrid vehicle a third AC electric motor; an engine coupled to said third electric motor, operable to provide power to at least one of said two pairs of wheels to propel the hybrid vehicle, and/or to said third electric motor to drive the third electric motor to generate electric power; a first alternating current-direct current (AC-DC) converter having an AC side coupled to said first electric motor, operable to accept AC or DC current and convert the current to DC or AC current respectively; a second alternating current-direct current (AC-DC) converter having an AC side coupled to said second electric motor, operable to accept AC or DC current and convert the current to DC or AC current respectively; a third alternating current-direct current (AC-DC) converter coupled to said third electric motor, at least operable to accept AC current and convert the current to DC; an electrical storage device coupled to a DC side of said AC-DC converters, wherein the electrical storage device is operable to store DC energy received from said AC-DC converters and provide DC energy to at least said first and second AC-DC converters for providing power to at least said first and second electric motors; and a controller, operable to start and stop the engine to minimize fuel consumption. essentially, they patented a triple electric motor hybrid, wit the third motor capable of driving wheels, but also being connected to an engine to generate power.
  • Import? (Score:3, Informative)

    by Dunbal ( 464142 ) on Thursday October 08, 2009 @05:31PM (#29686255)

    But, Toyota makes cars in the US...

  • If Toyota has added its own innovation, then this their invention, not the company that's suing.

    It's possible for a single product to contain multiple inventions, such as one patented to Paice and one patented to Toyota.

  • Re:Filing date (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday October 08, 2009 @05:47PM (#29686449)

    Toyota has been making the Prius since 1997.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Thursday October 08, 2009 @06:10PM (#29686705)

    It's actually pretty well documented that the big three are responsible for killing electric train lines in the US. Go back under your bridge.

  • by Kartoffel ( 30238 ) on Thursday October 08, 2009 @06:21PM (#29686809)

    East Texas is a known patent troll haven.

  • by piltdownman84 ( 853358 ) <> on Thursday October 08, 2009 @06:23PM (#29686831)

    Interesting that a company located in Florida [] would choose to sue a Japanese company in the seemingly random [] location of Marshall, Texas [].

    Marshall, Texas is part of the United States District Court for the Eastern District of Texas []. The district has been criticized for a perceived bias towards plaintiffs in patent infringement lawsuits, including patent trolls and other holders of dubious patents.

  • Re:That's bright! (Score:5, Informative)

    by icebike ( 68054 ) on Thursday October 08, 2009 @06:33PM (#29686903)

    I suspect they were formed to troll patents.

    After all the Prius, embodying virtually ALL of these claims was ON SALE in Japan in 1997, after MANY years in development.

    These guys first filed in 1998, and kept re-filing till they were spot on.

    How likely is it they were following the published research in this field (or had a mole in Toyota) and cobbled something together and rushed to the patent office? Since Toyota was SELLING it BEFORE they filed you can pretty well assume this is the case given the lead time required to bring a vehicle to market.

    The prior patents were not enough to keep Prius out of the US, and this one won't be either.

    Start by reading the patent claims and the dates involved. Follow it back to the patents they claim this was based on.

    Their earlier patent 6,554,088 did not mention AC-to-DC conversion. Only AFTER Toyota move to AC-DC conversion did this company start inserting that term into their applications. Further, this patent even references the Toyota transmission and the Prius by name.

    The current patent is therefore based on a patent which already recognized the Prius.

    So, Troll, or non-applicable, take your choice.

  • Re:That's bright! (Score:5, Informative)

    by digitalunity ( 19107 ) <{moc.oohay} {ta} {ytinulatigid}> on Thursday October 08, 2009 @07:35PM (#29687415) Homepage

    You're right. I have actually read a good portion of the patent and it's very specific about the fact that a ton of prior art already exists!

    In fact, the patent basically says "well we added an AC induction motor to drive the wheels, AND it has a gasoline engine and regenerative braking". From looking at the dates on the patent, I can tell you there is nothing novel about it. It is a basic building blocks continuation of existing technology.

  • Re:That's bright! (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday October 08, 2009 @07:45PM (#29687481)

    I made 6 figures and had okay insurance before I got sick 8 months ago. I'm sick with one of those things I probably will get better from, but it's fucking expensive and I have insurance (though they are happy to refuse to pay for most of the necessary surgeries). I will lose my very modest house and bankrupt, even with the very strong Short Term Disability plan and very little debt compared to my previous income.

    So, no, the fucking American healthcare system is abysmal and insurance companies are evil. Of course, you are also ignoring the fact that a fuckton of people don't even have any insurance whatsoever. Our healthcare is not fine, unless you are content to watch your neighbors die while you luck out and remain "okay." If you had no other options, well, that might be okay, but as it is, you have the power to change that.

  • Re:That's bright! (Score:3, Informative)

    by Technician ( 215283 ) on Thursday October 08, 2009 @08:08PM (#29687655)

    I don't think they have a claim. Read the patent. Other than sharing either electric or gas or both, the patent is not even close. The Prius engine runs to maintain battery charge and engine temperature. The patent claims electric unless the power demand is above 30 of the gas engine capacity so it only runs in a high effeciency power band. There are some things that resemble each other, The patent is so far off it would like Microsoft unable to use a graphical user interface because Apple patented the point and click interface.

    It's another hybrid where gas, electric or both can be used, but other than that, I don't think the claim has merit. In the prius the electric is a pair of Motor/Generators. In the patent, there is a motor, a generator, and a starter motor. I think because of the scope of the patent being so different from the Prius power split configuration, they have no case.

  • by mister_playboy ( 1474163 ) on Thursday October 08, 2009 @08:46PM (#29687959)
    The first generation Prius was sold only in Japan, but it went on sale in December 1997.
  • Re:That's bright! (Score:3, Informative)

    by AK Marc ( 707885 ) on Thursday October 08, 2009 @09:29PM (#29688181)
    Oh and if you have already emigrated then there is no "we" anymore from your perspective.

    You obviously don't know how it works. I'm still a citizen of the USA and will be for the rest of my life (including a requirement to file with the IRS and pay taxes in the US every year for the rest of my life, even if I have no financial activities inside the US). So I'm still an American. The people here think so, and so does Uncle Sam.
  • Re:That's bright! (Score:5, Informative)

    by Manchot ( 847225 ) on Thursday October 08, 2009 @10:27PM (#29688481)

    I don't get how anyone can claim they have the right to being cured of any sickness they get. Doctors work their asses off to get where they are.

    If you think that the extra costs we spend in the U.S. on health care go to doctors or for better treatment, you're sadly mistaken. Approximately 30% of the costs go directly to the insurance industry. Another 14% are spent by hospitals on staff whose sole job is to file insurance claims. That's right, almost half our costs are administrative in nature.

    The best cost to remove is the litigation and effects of the litigation that are destroying the system.

    I find it sad that right-wing politicians have convinced you of an idea that has no basis in fact. The direct costs of tort are negligible: 0.46%, according to the recent estimates. [1] While you might assert that the indirect costs of defensive medicine are higher, you have no way to prove that this is the case. Indeed, there is a lack of statistical correlation between the states with lower health costs and the states with tort caps. And while correlation does not imply causation, lack of correlation does imply lack of causation.

    By the way, Canada has more tort per capita than the U.S. They also have lower infant mortality rates, higher life expectancies, higher cancer survival rates, and lower costs. Please, tell me how my evidence is wrong and how litigation really is destroying the system. I'll be especially persuaded by the anecdotal testimony of some doctor bitching and moaning about his malpractice insurance costs.

    (FYI, don't get surgery in Texas. If the surgeon accidentally cuts your balls off because he switched your chart with someone else's, the most you'll be able to get is $250k. And just think, since the cap was passed in 2003, the state has seen its costs rise more than anyone else's. Tort "reform," indeed.)

    [1] G.F. Anderson et al., "Health Spending in the United States and the Rest of the Industrialized World," Health Affairs 24, no. 4 (2005): 903-914.

  • by Kupfernigk ( 1190345 ) on Friday October 09, 2009 @03:45AM (#29689765)
    Boulton and Watt held patents on the original steam (as distinct from vacuum) engine which held up development for many years. The engine patents were nearly as bad as patenting the wheel - they basically were allowed to patent the crank when used as part of a steam engine, though it is an ancient mechanism. Fox Talbot had patents on photography which held up development for years. The patent laws were just as ridiculous then.
  • Re:That's bright! (Score:5, Informative)

    by Anne Thwacks ( 531696 ) on Friday October 09, 2009 @04:22AM (#29689921)
    A country that provided the world with such things as electricity, the automobile, the outcome of WWII,

    AFAICT Michael Faraday was British, Gottlieb Daimler and Karl Benz were German, and the outcome of WWII was largely determined by Russia.

    I think you watch too many Hollywood movies.

  • Re:That's bright! (Score:2, Informative)

    by Kashgarinn ( 1036758 ) on Friday October 09, 2009 @05:27AM (#29690221)

    "I'm quite happy with my healthcare and insurance too."

    - No, you're healthy and don't have a medical problem which needs to be looked at, it's not the same thing as being happy with your current healthcare and insurance.

    If you actually had medical problems, your tone would change as it has with everyone who actually has to use the current US healthcare.

  • Re:That's bright! (Score:3, Informative)

    by ortholattice ( 175065 ) on Friday October 09, 2009 @08:47AM (#29690951)
    While I'm not saying these costs aren't a problem, just throwing out cost numbers in order to complain doesn't show the full picture.

    Let's start with: The average OBGYN delivers 100 babies a year.

    One of the worst is OBGYN, which ranged from $80,000 to $120,000.

    $800 to $1200 per baby.

    That's not including the schooling debt a doctor has,

    I keep hearing this complaint about "schooling debt", but if they're making hundreds of thousands per year, they should be able to pay it off pretty quickly. Perhaps they just pay back the minimum per year because they have favorable interest rates, or maybe just so they can keep compaining about it.

    or any equipment they have to purchase.

    Generally a one-time cost, not per year. Anyway, no numbers given here.

    Factor in the debt a doctor, especially a specialized doctor like OBGYN, and you have an additional overhead of between $75,000 and $150000 before you can even start practicing.

    Again, this makes no sense. How many years at $150K per year does it take to pay off schooling debt?

    And those are pure costs that don't take into account administration overhead (which is huge) and less tangible costs directly relating to dealing with insurance.

    Most doctors I know have a single employee (sometimes two, or another one part-time) to handle this stuff and more. Unless their practice is huge, like a dermatologist seeing 10 patients/hr, in which case perhaps 3 employees (which still barely eats into their $1000/hr revenue).

    If you have your own practice you can count on $40k at a minimum to hire a lawyer to make sure what you have covers what you need.

    I'm sorry, this sounds like a number pulled out of the air. Or some very expensive lawyer. Exactly what work are they doing for this $40K? Is this one-time, or per year?

    Then of course there are the extra costs of the accountant to deal with keeping your finances straight because they are now becoming a major headache to keep straight.

    No different than for other businesses.

    If you start looking at the total extra costs a doctor's office has in order to deal with insurance it becomes a significant portion of the cost of doing business that is in no way related to actually doing the business. It is simply an extra cost.

    Add in the administrative costs incurred by having to dick around with a patient's insurance company

    Most doctors I know have one employee to handle this and much of the other overhead you mention. That's their job.

    and you can start to see why delivering a baby costs anywhere from $15,000 - $25,000.

    At 100 babies per year, adds up to $1.5 million to $2.5 million. If we add all the costs you give (and amortize the fixed costs rather than implying that they are "per year"), it doesn't add up to this.

    My point is that you've thrown out a confusing array of numbers to make it seem like doctors are being wiped out with expenses or something. Most doctors I know are living very, very well, thank you. I've never seen one volunteer to show us their P&L or their 1040 to prove how little they are making due to all of these expenses. And as for your main point, that the insurance is wiping out the OBGYN's income, that's less than 10% of the price charged per baby.

The rich get rich, and the poor get poorer. The haves get more, the have-nots die.