The Secret Company That's Profiting From Every Hybrid On The Road
October 30, 2010
by David Kiley
The auto industry has seen its share of folk heroes over the years, but none like Alex Severinsky. You’ve likely never heard of him, but his company, Paice, made big news this summer when it beat both Toyota and Ford in prolonged litigation over patents held by the Soviet immigrant’s company.
These patents are critical to the operation of some hybrid vehicles, so when the International Trade Commission announced it would hold hearings on the matter, both automakers settled -- or caved, depending on one's perspective. The settlements, say sources who have followed the proceedings, may eventually total more than $100 million for the firm. Paice is the beneficiary of smart patent filings 16 years ago, as well as some lucky timing, as recall-ridden Toyota was not in a position to have its hybrid technology questioned in such a public way.
Prior to the settlements, a Federal judge had ruled that Toyota pay Paice $99 per Hybrid vehicle sold, which proved to be a starting point of negotiations. Toyota had sold over one million hybrids in the U.S. through 2009, and more than two million worldwide.
A Blast From The Past
Paice is said to have the top two most important hybrid patents in the world, and four of the top ten. Yet there’s no reason to expect other breakthrough technology from the company. Paice is a company that exists entirely, or nearly so, to chase companies that may be in violation of encroaching on Severinsky's original 1994 patents, what is known as an "intellectual property" firm.
Except for people in the automotive engineering or patent litigation space, few have even heard of Paice. Certainly, the people of Bonita Springs, Florida, would have little idea that the company is based in its community, a hot spot for retirees and shuffleboard. That's because the corporate address is actually the private home of Paice CEO and director Robert Oswald, the retired CEO of Robert Bosch Corp., the U.S. arm of the German auto supplier. Oswald’s house is on the golf course of the Shadow Wood Country Club.
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