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ArvinMeritor Inc., ZF Friedrichshafen AG and ZF Meritor LLC announced that they are committed to a vigorous defense against the legal actions launched recently by Eaton Corporation against the three companies in connection with the ZF Meritor FreedomLine automated manual heavy truck transmission.
"Eaton has a very significant share of the North American heavy truck transmissions market and their actions are the latest in a series of disruptive actions that appear to be designed to block truck operators' access to the field-proven innovative FreedomLine," said Tom Gosnell, President of Commercial Vehicle Systems, ArvinMeritor.
"ZF Friedrichshafen AG stands by its technology and we are confident that we will prevail against Eaton in their latest attempt to eliminate a viable competitor from the North American heavy truck transmission market," stated Wolfgang Vogel, Executive Vice President, Commercial Vehicle and Special Driveline Technology, ZF Friedrichshafen AG.
The FreedomLine(tm) transmission is the most advanced, automated manual transmission in North America, featuring the first "no clutch pedal" design making it easier to learn and operate than competing "three-pedal" automated systems. FreedomLine(tm) provides significant fuel economy and driver comfort benefits, and its innovative design is protected by numerous patents worldwide. This is the latest in a series of patent-related legal actions that Eaton has taken against ArvinMeritor and related companies:
In 1997, Eaton sued Rockwell International, ArvinMeritor's predecessor, for patent infringement by the ground-breaking Engine Synchro Shift (ESS) transmission that was offered prior to the FreedomLine(tm). ArvinMeritor decisively won that case, the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit in Washington ruling in favor of ArvinMeritor by a 3-0 vote.
Subsequently Eaton filed an "interference" in the Patent and Trademark Office - an action designed to wrest ownership of other patents from ZF Meritor, which indicates that Eaton is "very concerned about the threat of these patents to their automated transmission products", according to ZF Meritor President Rick Martello.
Now Eaton has filed complaints with the U.S. International Trade Commission and the United States District Court in Detroit, Mich., alleging infringement of several Eaton patents by the FreedomLine(tm) transmission.
In a message to heavy truck buyers, Gosnell said: "I want to make it clear how committed we are to this transmission and how certain we are that our position will prevail. We're here to stay in the transmission business as a technology leader for our customers. "The public deserves choice, particularly when it is as superior as it is in FreedomLine(tm)'s case," Gosnell emphasized. "With this in mind, ArvinMeritor and ZF intend to restructure our relationship."
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