Warren Howard, an individual inventor and pro se plaintiff, has accused Ford and GM (1:16-cv-00127) of infringing a single patent (5,394,555) meant to encourage seat belt use. The ‘555 patent generally relates to blocking electrical power from a system in a vehicle (e.g. the heater or radio) based on signals generated when someone sits in the vehicle and fastens the safety belt associated with the seat. The complaint specifically accuses Ford’s MyKey system, which allows owners to configure vehicle keys to control safety features, including unmuting the radio only after a safety belt has been latched. In addition to a request for $50 million from each defendant, Howard’s complaint asks the court to clarify three questions: “Does Ford [GM] own a patent for the seat belt and muted radio technology?”, “Can they produce the patent?,” and “Why did Ford [GM] express no interest in my invention yet placed the technology in their cars years later?”
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