ITC rules ZF transmission infringes Eaton patent

The U.S. International Trade Commission ruled April 7 to prohibit importation of the ZF Freedomline transmission manufactured and marketed by ZF Friedrichshafen AG, ArvinMeritor and ZF Meritor on the grounds it infringes an Eaton patent.

The order came after two preliminary ITC verdicts. A previous ruling from an ITC judge came on Jan. 7, and a full panel decision followed on Feb. 24. The ITC accepted only one of 76 patent infringement claims Eaton filed.

The final ruling is subject to presidential review until June 7.

James Sweetnam, senior vice president and group executive of Eaton’s truck business, said the company would continue to defend its patents against infringement by other companies, foreign or domestic.

In response to the ITC decision, ArvinMeritor announced Friday it would redesign its transmission to comply with the ruling. The company plans to continue the sale of its Freedomline transmissions in North America.

“Claim 15 [the infringing patent] pertains to a non-critical aspect of the transmission, which is not integral to its operation,” said Tom Gosnell, president of commercial vehicle systems for ArvinMeritor. “In anticipation of this expected order – based on the January decision – ZF redesigned the transmission software to comply with the ruling.”

Gosnell said the statement issued by Eaton regarding the ITC action was misleading, and was an attempt to eliminate ArvinMeritor as a competitor.

ArvinMeritor filed a patent infringement lawsuit in North Carolina last year against Eaton, alleging infringement of its U.S. patent covering torque prediction. That case is pending.

“Despite Eaton’s attempts, we fully intend to remain a player and look forward to continuing to meet our customers’ needs for advanced transmission systems,” Gosnell said.

Patrick Beeson can be contacted at [email protected].