Toyota Tends Gardner with Hybrid Vehicle Patent Win


In a previous post, I wrote about patent attorney-inventor Conrad O. Gardner’s infringement suit against Toyota in which he accused the automaker of infringing U.S. Patent No. 7,290,627 (’627 patent).

In that case, Gardner alleged that Toyota infringed the ‘627 Patent by making and selling the second generation Prius, the Camry hybrid and the Highlander hybrid.

The ‘627 Patent is entitled “Extended range motor vehicle having ambient pollutant processing” and is directed to a hybrid vehicle control system which controls the relative contribution of driving force from an internal combustion engine and an electric motor by sensing the vehicle’s speed and transferring the driving force contributions accordingly.

Last year Toyota succeeded in knocking out one claim of the ‘627 Patent, and Toyota has now won the case outright in the district court.

In an order issued last month (gardnerorder.pdf) Judge Richard A. Jones of the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Washington granted Toyota’s motion for summary judgment of non-infringement of the three remaining claims of the ‘627 Patent.

The court had previously construed two of the patent’s claim terms “motor-generated driving force transfer means” and “engine-generated driving force transfer means” to mean that an engine drives one set of wheels and an electric motor drives a different set of wheels.

The construction of the first term also required (1) the combination of a drive shaft, clutch, transmission, and axle, or (2) the combination of an electric motor direct drive and axle.

The court found that the Prius, the Camry and the two-wheel-drive Highlander do not infringe the ‘627 Patent because in those vehicles the engine and the electric motor both drive the same set of wheels, specifically the front wheels.

The four-wheel-drive Highlander was found to be non-infringing because the separate electric motor that drives the rear wheels is not connected to the wheels through a clutch, nor does it constitute a direct drive.

The court issued a subsequent order (gardnerorder2.pdf) denying Gardner’s motions for partial summary judgment against Toyota’s inequitable conduct counterclaim and invalidity argument.

Gardner has appealed both summary judgment decisions (gardnernotice.pdf).

Eric Lane is a patent attorney at Luce, Forward, Hamilton & Scripps in San Diego and the author of Green Patent Blog. Mr. Lane can be reached at elane@luce.com.



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