The International Trade Commission this week launched an investigation into a patent infringement complaint against Ford Motor Co. that could prevent the automaker’s Mexico-built hybrid electric cars from entering the U.S.
Maryland hybrid technology company Paice, along with the Abell Foundation, allege Ford is importing certain hybrid electric vehicles and components that infringe on its own patents, a violation of the 1930 Tariff Act.
The company says it worked with Ford from 1999-2004 to provide detailed modeling and component design, but that the automaker eventually declined to license Paice’s technology.
“We trusted Ford,” Paice CEO Robert Oswald said in a statement. “Our engineers spent years sharing technical details about our patented hybrid technology with Ford in good faith -- that faith was misplaced.”
Paice has requested that the ITC issue a limited exclusion order and cease and desist orders against electric hybrids -- such as the Ford Fusion and Lincoln MKZ -- that are built in Mexico and sold in the U.S.
Ford, in a statement, called Paice’s allegations “unsubstantiated” and vowed to continue to “vigorously defend itself” from them.
The ITC will assign the case to one of its administrative law judges, who will determine whether or not Ford violated section 337 of the Tariff Act.
“The USITC will make a final determination in the investigation at the earliest practicable time,” the agency said in a statement.
The ITC investigation is the latest chapter in a years-long dispute between the two companies. Paice in 2014 filed a patent infringement lawsuit against Ford, which was deemed invalid in court. Two appeals courts have since upheld the original ruling, so the company is attempting to get a favorable decision through a different avenue — the ITC.
Paice has filed similar lawsuits against a host of other automakers, including Volkswagen, Audi, Porsche, Toyota, Lexus, Hyundai and Kia. All cases have been settled, according to Nathanael Adamson, Paice’s executive vice president.
“All we’re trying to do is get the auto companies to realize we own this technology,” he told Automotive News.