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Bainbridge Island Inventor Files Suit Against Car Maker Ford

Deborah Wang

A tiny technology company located on Bainbridge Island is taking Ford Motor Company to court. Yesterday, Eagle Harbor Holdings filed suit against Ford in US District Court in Tacoma. The company charges that Ford is infringing on seven of its software patents. KUOW's Deborah Wang has that story.


The man at the center of Eagle Harbor Holdings is Dan Preston. He's an inventor who made a name for himself back in the 1990s as founder of the company Airbiquity. Back in the early 2000s, Preston says he came up with software that would integrate various entertainment and safety systems in cars.

For example, Preston says his software allows radar and imaging technology to work together, and that can make cars safer.

Preston: "Cars are built a piece at a time. Once they start to integrate the pieces, somebody needs to have the software that will accept all of that data, and that's our business."

Preston says back in 2002, his company met with engineers at Ford and at Volvo, which was then owned by Ford. Preston says his team demonstrated its software, which was protected by seven US patents. He says they continued to talk with Ford until 2008, when he says Ford cut off communications.

Jeff Harmes is general counsel for Eagle Habor Holdings. He says in the past three years Ford has rolled out a number of new systems, including Sync with MyFord Touch, Active Park Assist and Adaptive Cruise Control, that all infringe on Eagle Harbor Holdings' patents.

Harmes: "The patent system was created to, you know, provide an incentive for inventors to, you know, to innovate, and we have created some significant innovations and they are being used in the marketplace. So, the principle is that we would like to receive fair compensation for use of our technology."

Eagle Harbor Holdings filed its lawsuit against Ford in US District Court in Tacoma. The company is being backed by Northwater Intellectual Property Fund. They were one of the investors in the Canadian company i4i which just won a $300 million patent infringement judgment against Microsoft.

Ford Motor Company did not have any immediate comment on the lawsuit.

I'm Deborah Wang, KUOW News.

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