Orbital suing Daimler & Bosch for alleged patent infringement on direct injection technology

Australia-based specialized engine and vehicle systems company Orbital Corporation has filed court documents in the US District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia alleging the infringement of Orbital patents on direct injection technology by Daimler AG, Mercedes-Benz USA LLC, Mercedes-Benz US International, Inc. (Mercedes), Robert Bosch GMGH and Robert Bosch LLC (Bosch). (3:14-cv-00808-REP Orbital Australia Pty Ltd et al. v. Daimler AG et al.

)Specific patents covered by the complaint are United States Patents Nº 6,923,387 (the “387 patent”) (“injector patent”); Nº 5,655,365 (the “365 patent”); and Nº 5,606,951 (the “951 patent”) (“control patents”),under 35 U.S.C.§271.

The court filing calls for a jury trial and advises that Orbital seeks a judgement that Mercedes and Bosch have infringed Orbital patents along with the awarding of compensatory damages (“royalty and lost-profit based damage”) and permanent injunctive relief preventing Mercedes and Bosch from using the patented inventions, or a compulsory license fee if the Court determines that injunctive relief is not appropriate.

Background. Orbital began developing and using centrally-mounted, spray-guided direct fuel injection systems in the early 1980s. Orbital used direct injectors in 2-stroke engines. In 1995, according to Orbital, Mercedes expressed interest in Orbital’s technology and began evaluating the Orbital Combustion Process (OCP) on a 4-stroke Mercedes engine.

The OCP uses air-assisted, low-pressure direct fuel injection rather than high-pressure injection to atomize the fuel charge. With OCP, fuel is first metered into an injector pre-chamber via a conventional automotive port injector (MPI), and then delivered into the combustion chamber with the assistance of air at pressure.

Thereafter, according to the documents Orbital filed, it and Mercedes established a working relationship focused on applying the OCP technology to a dedicated 4-stroke engine system to improve fuel efficiency and emissions.

By 1995, Orbital had filed the 365 patent (“Method of Operating an Internal Combustion Engine”) and 951 patent (“Engine Air Supply Systems”). In 1997, Orbital and Siemens (later Continental) formed the the Synerject LLC joint venture to provide OEMs in the marine, motorcycle and recreation industries with gasoline Engine Management Systems (EMS) and fuel system components.

In 1997-98, Orbital incorporated the OCP into a Mercedes engine for testing. One of the main technical issues with direct injection systems is the effect of carbon deposits that build upon the injector as a result of fuel combustion; the carbon deposits negatively affect the spray pattern of the spray guided direct injectors.

From 1999-2002, Orbital improved deposit control in its fuel injector nozzles. This became the subject of the 387 (“Deposit Control In Fuel Injector Nozzles”) patent, filed in 2000. Orbital said it subsequently presented the patented technology for deposit control in fuel injector nozzles to Mercedes in great technical detail. In 2002, Orbital delivered a demonstrator vehicle—which incorporated the patented injector features—to Mercedes. Shortly thereafter, Orbital said, Mercedes notified Orbital that it would not be proceeding with the Orbital project.

In the court filing, Orbital charges that since then, Mercedes has released and sold numerous versions of vehicles in the US that include engines with a centrally-mounted, spray-guided direct injection system using Bosch injectors that infringe the claimed features of the 387 patent and the methods and systems of the 365 and 951 patents.

Orbital offered Bosch a license for use of several of its injector patents in 2011, including the 387 patent, which Bosch declined. Orbital is charging that Bosch has infringed one or more claims of the patents.