Eaton and ArvinMeritor are once again battling over transmission designs.

In early December, Eaton filed a complaint with the U.S. International Trade Commission charging that ZF Meritor’s FreedomLine transmission system and components infringe on various Eaton patents. ZF Meritor is a joint venture of ArvinMeritor and Germany’s ZF Friedrichshafen. The FreedomLine is the U.S. version of ZF Freidrichshafen’s ZF-AS Tronic used in Europe. It competes here with the Eaton Fuller AutoShift and UltraShift automated transmissions.
Eaton asked the ITC to investigate. It also asked the agency to issue orders blocking importation of the FreedomLine into the U.S. and sale of the products in this country. At the same time, Eaton filed a patent infringement lawsuit in the U.S. District Court in Detroit, and asked for a permanent injunction prohibiting the sale of the FreedomLine in the U.S.
ArvinMeritor vowed a "vigorous defense" and called Eaton’s actions, the "latest attempt to eliminate a viable competitor from the North American heavy truck transmission market." It noted a 1997 lawsuit brought by Eaton against ArvinMeritor’s predecessor, Rockwell International, charging that ArvinMeritor’s Engine Synchro Shift (ESS) transmission -- offered prior to the FreedomLine -- infringed on Eaton patents. Eaton initially won that suit but the decision was overturned by a Federal Appeals Court last year.
The International Trade Commission typically has about a year to investigate complaints but issues an estimated completion within 45 days after receiving a request.