Takata settles U.S. patent infringement case for airbag sensors
Two units of embattled Japanese auto supplier Takata Corp. are settling a six-year patent infringement dispute with International Electronics & Engineering SA and its Detroit area subsidiary for $1.1 million.
U.S. District Chief Judge Gerald Rosen in Detroit ordered Takata AG of Germany and TK Holdings Inc. of Auburn Hills to adopt a proposed settlement with Luxembourg-based IEE and subsidiary IEE Sensing Inc., of Auburn Hills, Mich., and dismissed the court case.
At issue in the original 2010 lawsuit are safety sensor systems from both companies, that generally activate or deactivate passenger airbags depending on whether a vehicle seat is carrying an adult, an infant car safety seat or other objects. IEE has been supplying General Motors with its BodySense product since 2008 and Takata has supplied its own sensor, called the CS3, to some Asian automakers since 2012.
“It was a hard-fought battle, and IEE is very pleased with the result,” said Frank Angileri, attorney for IEE in the dispute. “We’re very satisfied to have been vindicated.”
Attorneys for Takata did not return phone calls seeking comment on the settlement.
TK Holdings originally sued IEE for patent infringement in Delaware in 2009, but agreed to dismiss that case while both sides discussed a possible resolution out of court. That did not materialize, however, so IEE sued in Detroit the following year and Takata countersued.
Judge Rosen found in October 2014 that IEE’s BodySense had not infringed on the Takata patents, but allowed most of IEE’s infringement claims against Takata to go forward for a possible trial. Settlement discussions followed, and the two companies reached a preliminary deal earlier this year, but continued to dispute some fine points.
Those included whether Takata could deduct or withhold part of the settlement payment for taxes under German law. Rosen found Takata could do so if German law requires that, but sided with IEE on two other matters and then dismissed the case.
Angileri said IEE intends to pursue the tax withholding matter further in Germany.
The sensor dispute, although it involves airbag deployment, is unrelated to the massive global recall of vehicles equipped with defective Takata airbag inflators that can shoot shrapnel into a vehicle cabin when activated.
At least eight deaths and more than 100 injuries have been linked to the defective inflators, which are now estimated to be carried in 19.2 million U.S. vehicles made by 11 automakers. About 23.4 million inflators in those cars have been deemed defective by the National Highway Traffic Administration. So far, only 4.4 million of them have been recalled.
The root cause of the defect has yet to be determined and various regulatory and criminal investigations have been ongoing.
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