ArvinMeritor, ZF ‘delighted’ with ruling on FreedomLine transmission

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A redesign of the FreedomLine truck transmission built and sold by ZF Friedrichshafen AG and ArvinMeritor does not infringe on an Eaton Corp. truck transmission patent, an International Trade Commission administrative law judge has ruled.

The judge’s decision means the automated transmission, manufactured by ZF Friedrichshafen and marketed in the United States by ArvinMeritor, can continue to be sold in the United States. ArvinMeritor and ZF both say they are “delighted” with the ruling.

“We were confident that the redesign did not infringe on the 279 patent, and the ruling has certainly verified our position in serving customers,” says Wolfgang Vogel, executive vice president of commercial vehicle transmissions and a member of the management board of ZF Friedrichshafen.

The FreedomLine automated mechanical transmission entered North America in 2001. In December 2003, Eaton asserted that the transmission infringed six different Eaton patents. After a 10-day hearing in September 2004, a judge ruled in favor of ZF and ArvinMeritor on all but one of Eaton’s 76 asserted claims, and the ITC agreed. In response, ZF engineers redesigned the FreedomLine system in compliance with the ITC decision. The latest ruling holds that the redesigned system does not infringe the last of Eaton’s patent claims.

“Our commitment to technology advancements like FreedomLine remain ever diligent, and we will continue to pursue a freedom of technology choice on our customers’ behalf,” says Tom Gosnell, president of Troy, Mich.-based ArvinMeritor Commercial Vehicle Systems. “The transmission remains a strong viable powertrain option for our customers who desire a choice in gearboxes.”