(Photo via Wikimedia Commons)
A Baltimore company that invented a hybrid engine technology is no stranger to litigation. Now the book has closed on its latest legal saga with a major automaker.
Paice, with longtime investor the Abell Foundation, announced a settlement in its patent infringement case with VW, Audi and Porsche, which are each owned the Volkswagen Group. Terms were not disclosed. Along with resolving the claims, the deal averts a hearing from the International Trade Commission that was scheduled for this month.
Paice said the company worked with Volkswagen from 2001-2004, including providing algorithms and computer modeling. But VW abruptly ended the partnership and ultimately did not license the technology. The lawsuit filed in 2016 states that the Volkswagen Group companies started focusing on hybrid vehicles following the scandal over its device that masked emissions in its “clean” diesel engines.
This isn’t Paice’s first patent case.
In a 2015 case with Hyundai/Kia that went to trial, Paice was awarded $29.5 million for patent infringements. The company also licenses its technology to Toyota and Ford — as a result of past settlements.
The company was founded by Alex Severinsky in 1992. He received support through the University of Maryland’s incubator program. Severinsky received an initial patent in 1994, and developed fundamental technology for hybrid vehicles that now totals 29 patents. The company points to an independent analysis by IP firm Griffith Hack that found that Paice had three of the four most important hybrid vehicle patents in the world. The Abell Foundation came on as an investor in 1999, and co-owns the patents.
With the court fights, Paice and Abell Foundation have faced accusations of seeking to profit from the patent process. In the Hyundai case, the Wall Street Journal reported in 2015 that lawyers accused Abell of being patent trolls. Autoblog raised questions in 2010. But, taking up the patent troll question, Green Patent Blog said, “I think not.”
Foundation President Robert Embry told WSJ that Abell made the investment to help the environment. Embry said the Paice patent payouts provide more money for the organization’s efforts to fight poverty.-30-
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