Lawsuit Central: Ford Gets Hit With SYNC-Related Patent Infringement Suit

A company called Eagle Harbor Holdings has named Ford in a lawsuit, claiming that The Blue Oval infringed on seven of its patents.

Eagle claims that Ford has purloined its technology for Active Park Assist, Stability Control, Blind Spot Information with Cross Traffic Alert, MyKey as well as the tech that powers the voice control feature and remote MP3 player connectivity of Ford’s functionally-unique SYNC infotainment system.

According to the Bainbridge Island, WA-based Eagle, the company was in negotiations with Ford starting as early as 2002 but talks between the two firms stalled in 2008.

“Our representatives began meeting with Ford in 2002 to discuss and disclose our patented automotive systems technology and its applicability for use in Ford vehicles,” said Jeffrey Harmes, general counsel for Eagle Harbor Holdings, LLC. “These meetings continued until 2008, when Ford stopped communications with us. In early 2009 we informed Ford that its automotive audio systems infringed on our patents. In March 2010, we again informed Ford that its automotive electronics systems, including Ford SYNC, infringed on our patents. Unfortunately, despite our many efforts to communicate with Ford and resolve these issues, Ford continues to refuse to license its use of our patented technology. Ford is ignoring our patent rights and continues to use, without permission or license, Eagle Harbor’s technology.”

Ford hasn’t yet had a chance to review the details of the suit, telling Autoblog:

“We were just served with this lawsuit late last week and we have not yet had an opportunity to review the details. We believe it would be premature for us to comment until we have had a chance to do so.”

The Motrolix Take

After visiting Eagle Harbor Holdings’ website, it’s not easy to conclude that the company is a patent squatter for certain low-level (core) technologies… although this story sure as heck reeks of patent squatting.

Whatever the outcome of this lawsuit, it’s not likely that Ford will cease selling SYNC-equipped vehicles — as situations such as this one are usually settled with some form of monetary compensation either in or out of court. So don’t be surprised if Ford ends up forking over some good money to Eagle, either as a large lump sum or as a royalty on every SYNC-equipped vehicle sold… if Eagle’s case actually holds water, that is.

On a related note, the talks between Ford and Eagle also included Volvo, which at the time was owned by Ford Motor Company. At this point, it’s unclear whether Eagle will pursue the Swedish automaker in a similar case of patent infringement.

We’ll follow this one closely and see how it turns out.

Motrolix Founder with a passion for global automotive business strategy.

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