The ITC has launched an investigation into allegations of patent infringement.
The US International Trade Commission has agreed to launch an investigation into Ford's hybrid vehicles after receiving a patent infringement complaint.
"The products at issue in the investigation are passenger vehicles that use hybrid electric power with certain types of controllers," the ITC wrote in a news release. "The complainants request that the USITC issue a limited exclusion order and cease and desist orders."
The dispute was submitted by Paice LLC and Abell Foundation, Inc, both based in Baltimore, Maryland. If the ITC sides with the complainants, Ford could be barred from importing hybrid versions of the Fusion and Lincoln MKZ from factories in Mexico.
Paice claims to have collaborated with Ford from 1999-2004, allegedly working with more than a dozen executives and engineers that performed "detailed modeling and component design work" on the belief that both companies would reach a business agreement.
"In the end, Ford declined to take a license from Paice," the company said in a statement. "Tellingly, Ford licensed Toyota's hybrid technology, and Toyota later took a global license for all of Paice's patented technology."
Paice's press releases focus on patent disputes, lawsuit settlements and licensing agreements involving defendants. The latest statement frames the company as an engineering firm, but it appears to have later drifted toward a litigation strategy. Such businesses are commonly referred to by the derisive term "patent troll."
Ford's history includes a notable example of a patent infringement battle as the company was in its infancy. The automaker was sued in 1903 by a patent attorney who used amendments to delay his 1879 automobile patent application until the automotive industry was beginning to grow.
Henry Ford fought the lawsuit after all other major automakers folded and agreed to pay royalties. A judge eventually sided with Ford in 1911, agreeing that Ford's use of a four-stroke engine provided sufficient distinction from the two-stroke design described in the patent.
Ford has not yet released public statements outlining its plan to defend against the allegations in the ITC complaint. The ITC cautions that it has not yet made any decision on the merits of the case, which will be sent to an administrative law judge for an evidentiary hearing.