For the past several years, Alex Severinsky has been battling in court with Toyota over his claims that the hybrid design was his idea, and that Toyota has used his patent without permission.
In 2005, Severinsky took his patent on torque technology - used in earlier versions of the Prius, Lexus RX400h and hybrid Toyota Highlander - and Toyota to court claiming Toyota used his patent without permission. A federal jury ordered Toyota to pay Alex Severinsky's company, Paice, $4.27 million.
Although the judge declined efforts to halt sales of the hybrids altogether, the judge ordered Toyota to pay Paice $25 for every model sold that used Severinsky's patent. This amount was then recalculated after an appeal was made and changed to $98.
A recent report by Bloomberg said Severinsky is now aiming to stop all sales of the Toyota Prius in America on the grounds of Toyota, again, using his patent without permission. The only leeway Severinsky is offering Toyota is through another cash settlement, of course.
The Bloomberg report said the ITC - an independent agency set up to protect US trade policies - has to decide on what is more important; 'Severinsky’s right to protect the millions of dollars invested in his invention or the potential economic harm of banning Toyota’s hybrid-vehicle imports'.
President of Toyota US sales unit in California, Jim Lentz, said in an interview,
“I don’t think it would be in the best interest of the American consumer to take the number one-selling hybrid off the market.”
The matter will be heard in court today and if the ban on sales goes ahead, US Toyota Prius imports will be stopped from April next year until the patent expires in September 2012.