Pointing out that a United States International Trade Commission (ITC) judge ruled against 75 of 76 claims of patent infringement involving the ZF FreedomLine transmission, ArvinMeritor Inc and its partner in the transmission model, ZF Friedrichshafen AG, say they fully expect to continue offering their automated heavy-duty transmission in North America.
The ruling, an “initial determination” by an ITC administrative law judge, found that the FreedomLine transmissions infringe upon an Eaton transmission patent. The judge recommended that ITC issue an order prohibiting future importation of ZF FreedomLine transmission systems and components into the United States as well as a cease-and-desist order that would halt the sale of these products in the United States, according to Eaton.
In a response issued January 11, ZF and ArvinMeritor said it was a preliminary ruling that still must be finalized by the full commission, which may hear additional arguments. Even if the commission upholds that ruling, the two partners can continue arguing their case in the Federal Court of Appeals.
“Of the 76 claims in six patents asserted by Eaton, the judge found preliminarily that only one claim in one patent was infringed, and that one claim covers minor aspects of the transmission interaction with other system,” according to Tom Gosnell, president of ArvinMeritor's Commercial Vehicle Systems. “We are confident, upon appeal, that we will have a different ruling.”
Both Eaton and the ArvinMeritor/ZF partners have been trading patent infringement charges involving heavy-duty transmission automation for some time. The current case was one of three actions filed by Eaton in 1997. The other two were dismissed, one on appeal. Subsequently, ArvinMeritor filed an infringement suit against Eaton last year involving one of the contested patents. That case, filed in North Carolina, is still pending.