Ford Infringed Automatic Turn Signal Technology, According to New Lawsuit

By Joseph Mandour on March 6, 2014

Patent InfringementOrange County – Execs at Ford Motor Co. are busy fending off the second patent infringement lawsuit they have been faced with this month.  This one was filed in the District Court of the United States for the District of Delaware by an American inventor named Richard Ponziani, who claims that Ford willfully infringed on his patent for turn signal technology.

The specific patent in question is “Electronic Intelligent Turn Signal Control System,” which was issued to Mr. Ponziani on August 5, 2008.   The filing covers the technology whereby the “three-blink” lane change turn signal is automatically activated when a driver changes lanes.  After the three blinks have occurred, the blinker then automatically shuts off, eliminating the need to shut off the signal.

The complaint details how Ford allegedly became aware of Ponziani’s patent back in 2009 and then continued to manufacture vehicles including his invention without permission.  It specifies how Mr. Ponziani entered into communications with Ford and alleges that he traveled to the company’s Dearborn, Michigan-based headquarters in February 2010 and “presented slides and discussions about his turn signal technology to a roomful of Ford employees.” Ponziani claims that he went on to discuss the possibly of licensing the patent and was told by a Ford executive that the company was not interested.

The lawsuit also names TRW Automotive as a contributory infringer for its part in “actively inducing the infringing manufacture, sale and offer for sale of the accused Ford vehicles within the United States which incorporate TRW’s Steering Column Control Modules.”  The Steering Column Control Modules house the turn signal technology in Ford models.

Ponziani’s invention came as a much needed solution to what was cited in a popular 2009 list of “top ten driving pet peeves”, namely drivers forgetting to turn off their turn signals after changing lanes.  Since the patented turn signal system shuts off automatically, drivers cannot forget to turn off the signal because it will have turned off for them.

According to documents filed with the court, the Ford vehicles that currently come with the technology at issue include Ford’s F Series truck, Taurus, Edge and Fusion models.  In his complaint, in addition to damages, Ponziani is also demanding a trial by jury.  Ford’s spokeswoman, Kristina Adamski, declined to issue any response to the claims.

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Posted in: Patent Infringement