Harley-Davidson Sued for Patent Infringement

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A lawsuit has been filed in Federal Court in Los Angeles against Harley-Davidson for infringement of a patent for providing multi-colored lighting for speedometers and tachometers. The suit was filed by inventor and patent attorney Frank Weyer, who successfully sued Ford under the same patent for using a multi-colored instrument lighting system in the 2005 Ford Mustang. The suit seeks damages and an injunction prohibiting Harley from selling any more of its combination speedometer/tachometer with "color matched lighting," a $499 option available for some 2007 model year Harleys.

Frank Weyer, an inventor and patent attorney based in Beverly Hills, announced today that he has filed a patent infringement lawsuit against Harley-Davidson Motor Company for infingment of U.S. Patent No. 5,975,728 entitled "Method and Apparatus for Providing User Selectable Multi-Color Automobile Instrument Panel Illumination." The patent covers a system for providing user-selectable multi-color lighting to instrument panel instruments such as speedometers and tachometers. According to the complaint filed by Weyer in the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California (Civil Action No. CV-07-2502 DDP(Ex)), Harley-Davidson is infringing Weyer's patent by selling its Model Nos. 74676-07 and 74677-07 combination speedometer/tachomethers incorporating "color matched lighting" that are available as a $499 option on certain 2007 model year Harleys.

Harley-Davidson is not the first company sued by Weyer under his patent. Two years ago, Weyer sued Ford Motor Company in the same court for infringing his patent for offering the "MyColor" multi-color instrument lighting option in Ford's then newly introduced 2005 Ford Mustang (Civil Action No. 04-08630 CBM). After Weyer filed a motion for a preliminary injunction, Ford agreed to take a license under the patent. The terms of the Ford license are confidential.

Weyer says he intends to use the same strategy he used against Ford in his new suit against Harley-Davidson. "It's unfortunate that large companies such as Ford and Harley seem to think they have a right to use other people's patented technology at will, especially if the patents are owned by individual inventors. Fortunately, I'm a practicing patent attorney and litigator, so I can take legal action and am not at all impressed by litigation tactics of large companies and large law firms. Unfortunately, that is not the case for most small inventors, who often cannot afford to go up against large companies to enforce their patents."

On the other hand, Weyer is also not looking for a windfall. "On the other side, there are plaintiffs, not so much in the patent area, but especially in products liability, personal injury, and medical malpractice cases, who look at lawsuits as a way to win a lottery, and seek exaggerated damages for sometimes trumped up complaints." Weyer says that that is not the case here. "All I am looking for is reasonable compensation for use of my patented technology. However, if my opponent refuses to be reasonable, then I will take whatever action is necessary to enforce my rights. And the more force I have expended, the more expensive reasonable compensation becomes."

In the Ford lawsuit, Ford decided to take a patent license early in the litigation. Weyer says it would probably be to Harley's benefit to do the same. "Patent litigation is extremely expensive, especially if large law firms are involved. 'Running rates' of $50,000 to $100,000 a month or more are not at all uncommon. Although law firms like litigation and the attorneys' fees that are generated, for companies and stockholders, lawsuits are bottomless money pits. There are usually two opportunities to settle lawsuits: at the very beginning, and at the very end, just before trial. The smart choice, when faced with a meritorious complaint, is to settle early. Ford was smart. It will be interesting to see whether Harley is, as well."


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