California - A fuel injection system maker on Wednesday hit Ford Motor Co. with a lawsuit alleging the auto maker ripped off his patented technology for the fuel injection system in its popular F-150 pickup trucks.
TMC Fuel Injection System LLC's complaint filed in Pennsylvania federal court claims that Ford heard about the company's patented fuel injection system from its inventor, and misappropriated the technology.
Inventor Shou L. Hou filed the patent application with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office on May 10, 2002, according to the complaint. Hou, who holds a Ph.D. in applied physics, is a named inventor or co-inventor on at least 27 patents worldwide, it says.
In a December 2004 phone conversation, Hou described the system outlined in the patent application to Chris Woodring, who was then the manager of Ford Fuel Systems, the complaint says. Hou continued discussions about licensing the invention to Ford in 2005, and submitted a confidential disclosure waiver to the company in March of that year.
In July 2005 Ford allegedly informed Hou that it was not interested in pursuing the fuel injection concept.
The patent itself, U.S. Patent Number 7,318,414, was issued on January 15, 2008 under the title "Constant-speed multi-pressure fuel injection system for improved dynamic range in internal combustion engine."
Following the issuance of the patent, Hou contacted Ford again several times in 2008 about potentially licensing the patented technology to the auto maker. Ford eventually responded that its fuel system technical specialists had reviewed the patented system and that the company was still not interested in pursuing it further, the complaint says.
Despite informing Hou that it had no interest in the patented technology, Ford has been and is currently infringing the '414 patent by selling motor vehicles including the F-150 that use the patented fuel injection system without any license, TMC asserts.
TMC is entitled to increased damages, moreover, because Ford's infringement has been willful and deliberate, the complaint says.
Ford representatives did not return emails seeking comment.