November 29, 2009 - Jacob Krippelz, of Aurora, Illinois, invented and patented a sideview mirror light in the early 1990s and attempted to license it to Ford and Mercedes, which both turned him down. In 1997, Krippelz discovered that Ford had used his invention anyway - without paying a dime in royalties.
Over 11 years later, a jury and judge in federal court have ruled in Krippelz's favor, awarding the inventor $44 million in initial damages and another $11 million in interest since Ford's first act of infringement.
Krippelz, along with his sons Joseph and Jacob Jr., operate Jake's Inc., a machining and heavy equipment component manufacturing company in Aurora, Illinois that also has a plant in Mexico.
The language in U.S. District Judge James Zagel's 33-page ruling seemed to anticipate and deflect criticism of the small inventor as a "patent troll" - an inventor who patents an invention without intending to practice it, but instead licenses it to others.
"The sending of the patent made good sense for Krippelz," wrote Judge Zagel. "He was not in a position to put his invention into commerce; he did not make automobiles or their parts. His market was automakers, and their suppliers. It is quite reasonable that he would send his patent, once issued, to an automaker, and that is what he did."
(For commentary on the Jacob Krippelz, Sr. v. Ford Motor Company lawsuit, see our blog post on the case.)