Ford Sued for Patent Infringement for SYNC System After Refused Employment Offer

On Thursday, plaintiff Safe Driving Technologies LLC filed a complaint in the District of Delaware against automaker Ford Motor Company for patent infringement, alleging that Ford infringed the patents-in-suit via its in-car SYNC system.

The patents-in-suit are United States Patent Nos. 9,713,994 (the ’994 patent); 9,047,170 (the ’170 patent); 10,532,709 (the ’709 patent); and 8,301,108 (the ’108 patent). The plaintiff noted that in general, the patents relate “to the field of telematics, namely to the field of integrating information, communication, computing and entertainment technologies into vehicles.” The plaintiff added that the asserted patents relate to “safety control systems for vehicles to reduce driver distraction.”

The plaintiff recounted its past relationship with Ford and Ford’s purported use of the plaintiff’s technology; mamely, that the inventor of the patents-in-suit presented the information to Ford, Ford offered employment to the inventor, and was asked to assign the patents to Ford in return for full-time employment, but the inventor refused and was subsequently fired. Afterward, the inventor continued to present the patents-in-suit at various presentations attended by Ford. The complaint stated that at a presentation Ford “engineers were commenting about the similarity between his presentation and SYNC features.” Afterward, the plaintiff claimed that “Ford announced the adoption of its SYNC infotainment module, which implemented the invention recited in the Asserted Patents.”

According to the plaintiff, Ford’s SYNC infotainment system utilized the patents-in-suit. Specifically, the SYNC system is “focused on reducing driver’s distraction and allowing the driver to access various features without removing hands off of the steering wheel.” For example, Ford allegedly infringed at least claim 1 of the ’994 patent because SYNC “is a telematic device running a software application accepting an input and providing an output,” as described in the patent. Moreover, as stated in the patent there are sensors to identify different driving conditions, for instance, SYNC uses sensors to determine the vehicle’s speed. SYNC also has a controller that is in communication with the vehicle’s speed sensor. Accordingly, the plaintiff claimed that “in order not to distract the driver, the SYNC controller simplifies the listing of phone contacts on the display if the vehicle is moving.” The plaintiff proffered that “if the SYNC controller receives information from the speed sensor that the vehicle is moving, SYNC prevents the driver from using the keyboard to enter a navigation destination, and prevents the driver from viewing text messages,” which allegedly uses the patented system. As a result, the plaintiff contended that Ford has infringed the patents-in-suit.

The plaintiff claimed that because of Ford’s infringement it has suffered damages. The plaintiff has sought declaratory judgment in its favor, an award for damages, for the defendant to be permanently enjoined from further infringement, an award for costs and fees, and other relief.

Safe Driving Technologies is represented by Farnan LLP.