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US to investigate Toyota, BMW, Honda, others for alleged patent violations

Published 02 May 2017

Thermoplastic components used in various vehicles manufactured by German and Japanese firms are subject to an investigation in the US on violating the country's patent laws.

The US International Trade Commission (USITC) has voted to institute a probe of various thermoplastic encapsulated electric motors, components thereof, and products and vehicles containing same.

The USITC listed 25 companies in the investigation, including Honda, Toyota, BMW, and others along with Japanese parts suppliers Aisin Seiki and Denso.

The electric motors are encapsulated in heat resistant plastic body or body with heat resistant properties and they are used for several functions in an automobile including pumps in steering units and pumps in power units. As they are lightweight then other auto-components, they also help in improving fuel efficiency.

According to USITC, the investigation has been based on a complaint filed by Intellectual Ventures II LLC of Bellevue in Washington state, in March.

As per Reuters, the vehicles affected by the complaint include the 2016 Toyota Camry, the 2016 BMW 2 Series and 2017 Honda Accord.

In the complaint Intellectual Ventures has alleged that the section 337 of the Tariff Act of 1930 in the importation in the importation in the US has been violated.

The sale of certain thermoplastic encapsulated electric motors, components thereof and products and vehicles with the same infringed patents have been asserted by the complainant.

As per the complaint, the USITC has agreed to start a limited exclusion order and cease and desist orders.

The case will be assigned to a judge, who will conduct an evidentiary hearing to determine whether to proceed with case further or not. The USITC will set a target date for completing the investigation within 45 days. 

If found guilty, the automakers may have to remove the vehicles from roads or could have to pay heavy amount in fines.

Image: USITC starts investigation on Honda, Toyota and BMW over patent violations. Photo: Courtesy of Toyota Motor Sales, U.S.A., Inc.