Earlier this year, we wrote about how Toyota had been stockpiling a ton of patents
around hybrid vehicle technology, such that almost no other carmaker could make hybrid vehicles without paying up. Of course, there was some history to that story, as Toyota had lost a big lawsuit
by a patent holder named Paice a few years back, requiring a fee to be paid on a bunch of Toyota hybrids. However, apparently that wasn't enough. Gary points out that, not only has Paice filed some new lawsuits over more recent hybrid Toyotas
, it's also taking a separate crack at the issue via the International Trade Commission
(ITC), an infamous loophole
used by patent holders to get multiple cracks at a company over the same patent. The link above from Treehugger asks a question that plenty of folks following the patent world have been asking for years:
Here's a bit of a kicker: With the last suit, "Paice said the market for hybrid cars "did not take off" until Toyota "revamped its vehicle program" with technology Paice patented almost a decade earlier." So if a company has a technology that could be a huge boon for drivers and the environment and they sit on it for a decade, does a competing company that finally does something with it and makes it a success really need to be sued repeatedly for using it? Paice seems to be somewhat at fault for not being effective enough with a smart technology.
Indeed. This isn't a case of patents being used to enable innovation. It's a clear case of patents being used to hinder innovation -- and the patent holder seems to have no qualms about admitting that no real innovation happened until Toyota came along.