2013 Ford C-Max Energi Plug-In Hybrid

The name Paice will be familiar to anyone who's been deep in the weeds of hybrid history, but it will probably be new to anyone who simply drives one. The key part of the story is something called "HyperDrive," which is the name given to a gas-electric powertrain technology developed by Alex Severinsky and patented in 1994. HyperDrive is a way to get the energy from both the electric battery and the engine into the wheels, seamlessly. The patents are held by Paice, which is an unusual company (its HQ is a house in a retirement community, right by a golf course) that does nothing but litigate. You can read more on Paice here.

The latest case targets Ford and the hybrid and plug-in versions of the C-Max and Fusion models as well as the Lincoln MKZ. Paice claims that it held "over 100 meetings and interactions with Ford" between 1999 and 2004, and gave the automaker, "detailed information about the hybrid technology that Paice had developed." The suit also alleges that:

For more than five years, Paice answered inquiries from multiple departments within Ford, believing in good faith that a business relationship between Paice and Ford would be mutually beneficial and advance the acceptance of Paice's technology. ... After years of Ford learning the details of Paice's hybrid drivetrain technology, Ford elected not to enter into a business relationship with Paice.

The suit is officially known as, "Paice LLC v. The Ford Motor Co., 14-492, U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland (Baltimore)" and you can read the PDF here. Ford told AutoblogGreen, "we do not comment on pending litigation."

Toyota settled a similar patent-infringement case in 2010 and now pays Paice almost $100 for every hybrid it sells. Paice is still in court against Hyundai and Kia. In 2010, Ford also settled with Paice but they agreed to keep negotiating on other issues until at least January 1, 2014. With that date now in the past, it didn't take long for Paice to file papers to get the two sides back before a judge. That's where it appears to be most comfortable.