U.S. could pull plug on Prius imports

Toyota Motors Tsutsumi factory workers check assembled Prius hybrid vehicles at a factory in Toyota City


Steve Chiotakis: Today, Toyota reported it sold more than two million hybrid cars worldwide since it first launched the Prius more than decade ago. But if a patent infringement case filed this week pans out, sales of Toyota's latest suite of hybrids could be banned in its largest market. From the Marketplace Sustainability Desk, Sam Eaton reports.

Sam Eaton: U.S. hybrid technology company Paice claims Toyota's new Prius, hybrid Camry and two Lexus models are using technology Paice invented. The Florida-based company already won a jury verdict against Toyota back in 2005 for patent infringement, and it argues that the technology used in Toyota's new line of hybrids is the same.

On Thursday, Paice filed a patent infringement case with the U.S. International Trade Commission. The agency is set up to protect U.S. markets from unfair trade practices, patents included. If it rules in favor of Paice, the agency could decide to impose an import ban on the violating products. That process could take more than a year.

Toyota isn't commenting, but industry experts say given Toyota's huge market here in the U.S., a substantial fine is a more likely outcome.

In Los Angeles, I'm Sam Eaton for Marketplace.

About the author

Sam Eaton is an independent radio and television journalist. His reporting on complex environmental issues from climate change to population growth has taken him all over the United States and the world.


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