Inventor wins wiper suit against Chrysler

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: Dec. 16, 1991

DETROIT -- Robert Kearns, the basement inventor who developed intermittent windshield wipers, won his second patent infringement suit in federal court, this time against Chrysler Corp.

Last week, a federal jury returned a verdict saying Chrysler infringed on four patents issued to Kearns. The 64-year-old inventor settled with Ford Motor Co. last year for $10.2 million. He has been embroiled in lawsuits with virtually every foreign and domestic automaker for 13 years.

"This reinforced the good feelings that I have about juries," said Kearns after hearing the verdict.

"It was a very studious group that spent a lot of time before making its decision."

A second trial is slated to determine damages against Chrysler. Kearns is asking for about $39 million ($3 on 13 million vehicles) and an exclusive contract to manufacture and sell intermittent wipers to Chrysler for 12 years.

The jury found that Chrysler violated patents Kearns developed on the synchronized operation of the wiper blade; dwell time of thesuit against blade; use of a three-brush motor to adjust the speed of the wiper blade; and the use of a transistor with a relay to perform the braking function of the blade.

Kearns has said repeatedly that he hopes through his lawsuits to change patent law to better protect inventors. He wants courts to have the power to extend patents if inventors are involved in lengthy litigation but have pursued patent-infringement diligently.

Chrysler conceded that Kearns' patents were valid but argued whether their products infringed on those patents. Kearns said he equipped 20 vehicles with the device in 1978 and showed them to Chrysler, but they declined to give him a contract to build intermittent wipers for the company.

He first got the idea for a "windshield wiper that blinks" after losing sight in one eye when a champagne cork exploded unexpectedly on his wedding day.

Lawsuits are still pending against other automakers. Originally, the lawsuits were combined into one, but that was too cumbersome so U.S. District Court Judge Avern Cohn picked Ford as the test case.

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