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ITC to Investigate Alleged Hybrid Patent Infringement by Toyota

Based on a complaint filed by Solomon Technologies, the US International Trade Commission (ITC) has voted to institute an investigation into whether or not Toyota’s hybrid drivetrain infringes on a patent awarded to Solomon 15 years ago.

If Solomon is successful in its ITC action, Toyota could be prohibited from importing into the United States infringing combination motor and transmission systems and those products containing such systems—i.e., Toyota’s hybrids.

Solomon filed the ITC complaint on 10 January 2006, followed up by a supplemental letter on 30 January. The company’s ITC actions are in addition to a lawsuit Solomon filed against Toyota in September 2005, claiming the same infringement.

The filing of the ITC complaint is the next step in our effort to fully prosecute the alleged infringement by Toyota and to protect our valuable intellectual property. We believe that the ITC’s streamlined administrative process, as well as the technical depth of the ITC staff, will be helpful in expediting and supporting our claims.

While the ITC can not assess damages against an infringer, it can issue an exclusion order prohibiting the importation of infringing technology. We will continue our effort to protect our intellectual property to the fullest extent possible.

—Solomon President Peter DeVecchis, Jr.

The ITC will first schedule and hold an evidentiary hearing, and an administrative law judge will make an initial determination as to whether there has been a violation. That initial determination is subject to review by the Commission.

Within 45 days after institution of the investigation, the ITC will set a target date for completing the investigation. ITC remedial orders in cases such as these are effective when issued and become final 60 days after issuance unless disapproved for policy reasons by the US Trade Representative within that 60-day period.

Toyota has been the target of a number of different lawsuits. In 2005, Anglo-Dutch transmission developer Antonov plc sued the automaker in a German court, also claiming that the Toyota illegally copied Antonov’s design for the driveline of the Prius and RX 400h hybrids. (Earlier post.)

With motors turning both gears, the transmission automatically and continuously shifts gear ratios as the output shaft gathers speed. When the shaft reaches operating speed, the motors, shaft and transmission turn as a single unit, eliminating frictional loss in the gears. Source: Solomon

Solomon develops and sells fully integrated electric power drive systems, some of which incorporate its “Electric Wheel”. The Electric Wheel combines two permanent-magnet motors with an infinitely variable, planetary-gear transmission within a housing.

One rotor is fixed to the transmission’s outer ring gear, the other to the inner sun gear. A three-pinion planetary gear set between the ring and sun gears turns the output shaft.

The system has flexibility in supporting different power configurations to meet specific requirements either via the use of larger motors or adding a second motor to each gear and doubling the total horsepower.

The current Electric Wheel model has a 6 hp motor turning the ring gear and a 4 hp motor turning the sun gear. The 4 hp motor is a 6 hp unit that’s been derated through the controller because it turns a gear with a greater mechanical advantage.

Maintaining that same 3-2 ratio, other configurations are possible such as a 33 hp unit (20 hp motor on the ring gear and a derated 12 hp motor on the sun gear) and a 50 hp unit with two motors attached to the ring gear (20 hp and a derated 10 hp unit) and a single 20 hp motor on the sun gear.

NASA used a simplified version of the Electric Wheel in the Sojourner Mars rover and has supported its development since 1994 through its Mid-Atlantic Technology Center in Pittsburgh.




lol then we'll have to get those pri illegally... they are already popular over here WHY COMPLAIN NOW when you can complain 15 years ago or when the pri first came out! You wait till the PRI gets super popular so you can get all the money! How typical of human nature...

then again he worked his ass off to get us what those pri got... then again he's probably not satisfied enough with the money he's got and the money Toyota's got.

Either or this guy is a joke, maybe not as bad if he CAME TO THE FRONT A LITTLE EARLIER....

John W

Whatever; if it is an infringement, it's an infringement. Late or not, justice should be served, and if Toyota actually did steal some little guy's invention they should reap the consequences. Better late than never.


my dad invented the "psd"


Patent infringement doesn't mean theft. It just means a similar design. Toyota can be infringing on the patent without ever knowning that this dude's stuff ever existed.


that antonov guy is a joke u are correct, how can he sue for a device he never invented. I know for a fact he wont be successful. so dw bout ur hybrid infringemobiles. all antonov has done is bring to the real inventors attention that toyota has been using it. oh what a feeling.


Maybe you should learn to spell before trying to judge the intricacies of patent law.
Roumen Antonov's US patent is US5309778A1, but this is preceeded by similar patents in other countries, including France, Germany, Japan, etc.

Toyota are not denying that their CVT is an Antonov CVT; they are trying to get Antonov's patent (which has existed for over a decade) revoked, because they are using it. To do this they need to show some sort of incompetence with the patent authorities in granting the patent.

I think it is a case of the Toyota legal team being heavy landed, in the same way that they are trying to get Miss Lexus to close down her adult website, or fighting the sexual harassment case with Sayaka Kobayashi.


The "power split device" as it is now known was derived from an award winning differential which my father bought the patent rights to. The patent has a 1988 priority date(before antonov or toyota).

M Hiles

I personally know the inventor of this technology, Jonathan Edwards. I saw the original prototype of the transaxle in 1992 as they were doing their first dyno tests on a retrofitted Buick.

This was not some little joke. Edwards drew the original prototype design on the lid of a pizza box. At one point they were working with some guys from Intergraph corp who were retired AF colonels. I also remember they had some deal with Saminco corp to license the technology for conveyors and mining purposes.

I lost touch with them years and years ago, but it was cool stuff from brilliant people who had working product long before now.


Toyota are not using the same device as Antonov. Antonovs needs a box,the "power split device" is self supporting for one thing. Any engineer comparing the two would see the differences.

Erik Pedersen

The thing is Toyota looked at Solomon's patent back in '92 and then walked away only to have the near exact same device show up in their Prius years later. But im sure this was a total coincidence. I just can't imagine a large corportation taking the intellectual property of a small stuggling, one room company they thought was probably going to go out of business at any moment anyway. It just couldn't happen.

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