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Island company files lawsuit against Ford

A small Bainbridge Island technology firm is gearing up for a big-league fight with one of the countries largest corporations, Ford Motor Company.

Eagle Harbor Holdings, LLC and its subsidiary MediusTech LLC have filed a federal lawsuit in Tacoma against Ford for infringing on several automotive technology patents being used in Ford, Lincoln and Mercury vehicles.

The lawsuit alleges Ford is using systems like blind-spot identification, MyKey, Active Park Assist and others without permission.

Dan Preston, chairman and managing member of Eagle Harbor Holdings, is the inventor of most of the patents asserted in the lawsuit.

Dan and his son Joe Preston, who serves as the company’s chief information officer, are the co-founders of Airbiquity, which is the technology used in the General Motors OnStar systems.

Jeffery Harmes, general counsel for Eagle Harbor Holdings (EHH), said the Preston’s began meeting with Ford’s engineers in 2002 to start discussing some of their ideas and products.

Those talks ended in 2008 when Ford went silent, according to Harmes.

In early 2009, Harmes said, EHH informed the Ford company that it was infringing on patents, and did so again in March 2010 after the Ford SYNC in-car connectivity system was released.

“When [Ford] SYNC came out, Ford was using things that Dan had patents on,” said Harmes. “This is patent infringement involving millions of dollars. Ford is licensing patents these guys wrote years ago.”

Harmes said the lawsuit seeks ongoing royalties coming from Ford’s illegal use of the automotive technology patents.

EHH, with headquarters now in a building on Parfitt Way, employees 10 people here. The Prestons, who founded the company 15 years ago, focus on technology ventures including metals recovery/recycling, coal fly ash remediation, automated vehicle situation awareness and vehicle infotainment.

Collectively, the engineers in the firm have been named inventors on more that 200 issued patents that have been installed in tens of millions of vehicles, Harmes said.

“Both Dan and Joe Preston have broad and deep experience in the development of patented technology that is in use in a variety of industries,” said Harmes.

EHH is being represented in the lawsuit by Susman Godfrey LLP, a national litigation firm.

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