Goodyear, a US tire manufacturer, must pay Czech inventor František Hrabal USD 65 million (CZK 1.6 billion).On Monday, a court in the US state of Ohio ruled on the matter. According to the court, the company appropriated the Czech inventor’s self-inflating tires.
Goodyear named its version of the invention Air Maintenance Technology (AMT) and introduced it in 2012, three years after the Czech firm Coda.
Initially, the companies had been discussing a collaboration
Coda sued Goodyear and its former engineer, Robert Benedict, in 2015. The Czech firm said Hrabal met with Goodyear employees in January and June 2009 about the possibility of collaborating and putting his ideas into production.
The US tire maker signed a non-disclosure agreement under which it could only use the knowledge of its employees if it entered into a partnership with the Czech company. However, this never happened.
But Benedict used the knowledge from the meetings. He began developing it in the hope that it would bring Goodyear hundreds of millions of dollars in profits in the coming years, according to Coda. Goodyear also obtained two patents based on Hrabal’s ideas, it said.
Coda celebrated a partial success in February 2019, when the US federal appeals court for the District of Columbia overturned a trial court’s decision to dismiss its claims against Goodyear for misappropriation of trade secrets and failure to identify the actual inventors of Goodyear’s patents.
The appeals court remanded the case to the trial court for further proceedings, which has now ruled that Coda will receive damages.
The trial will drag on.
But the litigation is not over yet. Coda asked the court to attach Hrabal’s name to the two patents. It has also asked for an injunction prohibiting Goodyear from using the information the Czech firm claims was stolen.
Goodyear is one of the world’s largest tire manufacturers, alongside companies such as Michelin and Continental.
According to the court, the company appropriated five trade secrets of the inventor and his company, Coda Development, Jan Martínek, Coda’s managing director, said. The jury ruled that Goodyear acted with malice.
The dispute between Goodyear and the Czech company Coda Development lasted several years. The bone of contention was self-inflating tire technology. Coda Development named the invention Self Inflating Tire (SIT) and patented it in most countries worldwide, including the US, in 2009. The tire inflates automatically thanks to a miniature pump powered by wheel rotation and ambient air.