According to a court ruling: Ford is threatened with a sales ban in Germany

For patent infringement
According to a court ruling: Ford is threatened with a sales ban in Germany

New cars in front of the Ford plant in Cologne: The car manufacturer is threatened with a sales ban after a court decision

© Oliver Berg / Picture Alliance

After a court ruling, Ford is threatened with a sales ban in Germany. The accusation: The carmaker is supposed to install mobile phone technology in its vehicles without a license. The verdict reflects a problem in the entire industry.

Heavy blow for Ford: The district court in Munich issued a sales ban against the car manufacturer in Germany on Thursday, as reported by several media with reference to the court. The reason for this is that the group is accused of patent infringements, which the court regards as proven. Certain Ford models are affected that are equipped with mobile phone technology without – according to the accusation – having validly licensed it.

The plaintiff was the patent administrator IP Bridge. The judgment is not yet final, but can be enforced against a security deposit to be provided by the plaintiff. According to “Wirtschaftswoche”, this amounts to 227 million euros. Ford can appeal the verdict or come to an agreement with the plaintiff, for example by allowing the carmaker to take out a license from a patent pool. According to the reports, the verdict also calls for the recall of vehicles from dealers and their destruction.

Auto industry in a chip jam: Ford is not the only company affected

Ford isn’t the only affected company in the automotive industry, whose vehicles have become increasingly connected. However, the installation of the chips also follows legal requirements: since 2018, every new car must be equipped with the automatic emergency call system E-Call, which uses mobile communications and satellite positioning. In the recent past, VW and Daimler have also been confronted in court with allegations of illegal use of technology by mobile phone technology patent holders. More cases could follow. In the case of Ford, according to “Heise”, the focus is on the “Ford Pass Connect” feature in LTE-networked vehicles.

The verdict is the first since the patent law reform last year, which the industry had actually hoped would protect against decisions like the one now passed in Munich: namely that a single component can paralyze a manufacturer’s entire domestic production. At the time, the German Association of the Automotive Industry (VDA) wrote of excessive license demands and abuse of patent law, especially by companies in the information and communication technology sector, by “patent trolls”.

“It will now be up to the competent courts to implement this immediately in case law that needs to be adjusted accordingly,” the VDA announced at the time. The verdict from Munich should be seen as a major setback.

Ford has not yet commented on the decision.

Sources: “Wirtschaftswoche”, “Heise”, VDA, ADAC, BMJ

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