ArvinMeritor wins appeal in patent fight with Eaton

TROY, Mich. (April 4, 2003) — ArvinMeritor said yesterday it has won its appeal in the patent infringement suit brought by Eaton Corp. against ZF Meritor’s Engine Synchro Shift· (ESS) transmission system.

The Federal Court of Appeals reversed a U.S. District Court ruling two years ago. The decision prevents Eaton from applying its patent against ArvinMeritor’s ESS transmission or any other transmission that does not contain the structures listed in the patent claim.

The legal battle between the rival transmission suppliers dates back to 1997, when Eaton alleged that Rockwell International, which later spun off the Meritor Automotive business that is now part of ArvinMeritor, infringed a patent Eaton holds on the development of a specific clutchless shifting system when it introduced ESS. The system allows a heavy truck transmission to be shifted without the use of the clutch.

In 2001, a U.S. District Court judge in Delaware rejected ArvinMeritor’s claim that Eaton’s patent had been obtained improperly, and he ruled in favour of Eaton on patent enforceability. ZF Meritor — a joint venture created in 1999 between ArvinMeritor and ZF — was forced to remove ESS from the market “We welcome fair competition in the marketplace, but we refuse to compete against our own patented technology,” Eaton said at the time.

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