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Hyundai, Kia Sued by Toyota Foe in Fight Over Hybrids

Hyundai Motor Co. and Kia Motors Corp. were named in a patent-infringement lawsuit filed by a company that had been embroiled in a years-long fight with Toyota Motor Corp. over hybrid-engine technology.

Closely held Paice LLC and Baltimore’s Abell Foundation, a non-profit that’s invested in Paice, filed the suit yesterday in federal court in Baltimore, accusing the Seoul-based automakers of infringing three patents.

The complaint targets Hyundai’s Sonata Hybrid and the Kia Optima Hybrid. Hyundai and Kia, which are affiliated and whose hybrid vehicles use the same powertrain technology, were aware of the patent litigation with Toyota. The litigation ended with a 2010 settlement reached after eight years of legal fighting, Paice said.

“Since as early as 2004, Paice has contacted Hyundai on numerous occasions and offered to discuss its patented hybrid technology,” Paice said in the complaint. The company is seeking cash compensation and an order that prevents further use of the technology without permission.

“Hyundai Motor America is still examining the issues raised in the lawsuit, which we received a short time ago, and is not able to comment on the specifics of the suit at this time,” Chris Hosford, a spokesman for Hyundai said. Officials with Kia couldn’t immediately be reached for comment.

Paice was founded by Alex Severinsky, a Soviet emigrant who began his career developing antitank-warfare instrumentation. In the 1990s, he developed a high-voltage method to power gas-electric vehicles that he contends is the basis for modern hybrid technology.

Ford Motor Co., maker of the Fusion hybrid car, also agreed to license Paice’s technology to resolve lawsuits.

The case is Paice LLC v. Hyundai Motor Co., 12cv499, U.S. District Court for the District of Maryland (Baltimore).

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