Ford Motor Named in Patent Infringement Lawsuit

Ford Motor Co. has been named in a patent infringement lawsuit filed by a company that alleges that the auto manufacturer infringed on seven patents, most of them related to Bluetooth and audio communications.

The company, Bainbridge Island-based Eagle Harbor Holdings, and its subsidiary Medius Tech, has filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court in Tacoma. The lawsuit alleges that Ford has used patented Eagle Harbor technologies related to audio communications and Bluetooth in its popular Sync voice-activated communication system.

According to the lawsuit, Eagle Harbor developed these technologies more than 10 years ago and claims these technologies are now being used in an unauthorized manner in many Ford vehicles, including Lincoln and Mercury cars. The lawsuit alleges that Eagle Harbor and Ford Motor Co. had been in talks since 2002 about licensing these patents. However, Ford suspended talks with Eagle Harbor in 2008. Soon after, the technologies developed by Eagle Harbor found their way into Ford vehicles. Lawyers for Eagle Harbor contacted Ford Motor Company in 2009 to discuss the patents, but received no response.

These technologies were developed by the father and son team of Dan and Joe Preston of Eagle Harbor. They also developed technology that is currently used in General Motors’ On Star system. Like many clients familiar to San Diego patent litigation lawyers, the Prestons are depending on the fact that they are a smaller company that is heavily dependent on patent protection to win their lawsuit against Ford. This isn’t the first time that the father-son duo has come up against a large corporation. Eagle Harbor was part of a group of businesses that took on Microsoft during its patent infringement fight with Canadian software company i4i Limited Partnership. Microsoft lost that fight, and the David versus Goliath result in that lawsuit is probably very encouraging to Eagle Harbor.

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