WASHINGTON -- The International Trade Commission will investigate a Florida company's claim that Toyota's hybrid technology infringes on one of its patents.
Solomon Technologies Inc., of Tarpon Springs, Fla., filed the complaint last month against Toyota Motor Corp. and its U.S. affiliates.
The company alleged in a federal lawsuit last September that technology used in the Toyota Prius and Toyota Highlander gasoline-electric hybrids infringes on a Solomon patent.
According to Solomon's complaint, inventor Jonathan Edwards got a patent in 1991 for a "dual-input, infinite-speed integral motor and transmission device" and assigned the patent to Town Creek Industries Inc.
Town Creek discussed the technology with Toyota representatives in 1992 and 1993 but never made a deal, the complaint says.
Solomon subsequently acquired Town Creek.
Solomon provides propulsion systems for marine applications and motors for land vehicles and machinery, including a system that regenerates electricity, according to a company statement.
The trade commission has authority to block imports of products that infringe on U.S. patents. It approved the investigation of Solomon's claim on Wednesday, Feb. 8.
Opening an investigation does not mean that the commission has made a decision about the merits of the claim, panel officials said.
Toyota spokesmen say the company considers the trade commission case to be the equivalent of litigation, and Toyota policy is to not comment on litigation.
The commission said an administrative law judge will hold a hearing on the claim and issue a determination. That decision is subject to commission review.
You may e-mail Harry Stoffer at [email protected]