Inventor Kearns settles with Ford

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: November 19, 1990

Inventor Robert Kearns signed a settlement agreement with Ford Motor Co. last week for $10.2 million after U.S. District Court Judge Avern Cohn entered a judgment saying patents on his electronic intermittent windshield wiper were "valid, enforceable and infringed by Ford."

But Kearns' 12-year legal battle with the automakers is far from over. Kearns, 62, has sued 23 virtually every auto manufacturer for infringing on his patents, including General Motors and Chrysler Corp.

GM had no comment about Kearns' settlement with Ford.

Ford says it still believes Kearns' patents are invalid but settled "to end what had become a protracted and costly matter."

The automaker promised to deliver a lump sum check to Kearns within three days if he signed the settlement agreement, which he did, on Wednesday.

Kearns' son, Dennis, said his father will use the money to pay off debts, and continue his legal struggle with other manufacturers.

Kearns' lawyers are expected to draw $4 million from the award. His ex-wife reportedly will get 10percent of the award.

The younger Kearns said the agreement restrains his father or any of his heirs from further litigation with Ford over the patents.

In July a federal jury ordered Ford to pay $5.1 million plus interest for violating Kearns' patents.

That would have pushed the award to somewhere between $8.5 and $11 million, but Kearns vowed to appeal, saying it wasn't enough.

Kearns said his father was reluctant to sign the settlement agreement. He had sought more than $340 million from Ford for using his "blinking windshield wiper," which he invented in 1963. But he finally signed, saying: "I'm only giving up on this case."

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

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