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Jury split on what Ford must pay inventor of intermittment wipers

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: May 14, 1990

DETROIT -- A new jury will be impaneled to determine how much inventor Robert Kearns should win from Ford Motor Co. Ford infringed on his patents for intermittent windshield wipers.

U.S. District Judge Avern Cohn declared a mistrial last week after jurors failed to reach a unanimous decision on damages.

After concluding that Ford didnot willfully infringe, seven of the eight jurors agreed Kearns should receive $3 million to $10 million. The jury became hung when the eighth juror held out for more.

The seven jurors agreed upon far less than the $325 million that Kearns had sought and relatively close to the $1.5 million that Ford believes he is entitled to.

The new jury will rule only on money damages, not on whether Ford infringed on the patents.

To make the case less complicated, Cohn selected Ford as the test case. Whatever damages are applied to Ford will likely affect the other defendants.

"I thank the Lord that we have been given another chance to present our story," Kearns said. He filed his suit against Ford in 1978. About 23 other automakers have been added to it.

Kearns said he will seek an injunction against Ford enjoining the automaker from manufacturing any of the devices or using any facilities or data it has acquired in relation to the wipers.

He said he will accept no out-ofcourt settlement.

Kearns said he will allege "they took away the business opportunity from me" in his next complaint.

Kearns, 62, said he never had any intention of selling his idea to Ford, the first automaker he approached with his idea back in 1963.

He said he wanted to secure Ford as a customer so that he could start his own factory to produce the windshield wipers.

He said Ford has earned $558 million on the wipers.

"They used my income to build their plants.

"If I only receive reasonable royalties, then I am only an employee of Ford as opposed to being a businessman."

Kearns says he has spent at least $1 million "easy" on legal fees but intends to carry his legal battle through in hopes of protecting all inventors.

He said the new trial should start in six to eight weeks.

Ford argued that Kearns patents were invalid because his ideas were disclosed in patents previously issued to other inventors.

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