An International Trade Commission administrative law judge has ruled that ZF Friedrichshafen’s redesigned FreedomLine transmission does not infringe on an Eaton truck transmission patent, thus can continue to be sold in the United States.

ArvinMeritor, which markets the FreedomLine in this country, applauded the decision but rival Eaton Corp. said it may seek review and reversal by the full commission.
Last year the ITC issued a limited exclusion order blocking importation of the FredomLine. The commission was acting on a complaint filed by Eaton in 2003 claiming 76 infringements on six Eaton patents. In issuing the order the ITC upheld an earlier decision by an administrative law judge that one claim on one patent was infringed. By that time, however, ZF had redesigned software in accordance with the judge’s ruling.
“We were confident that the re-design did not infringe on the patent and the ruling has certainly verified our position in service customers,” said ZF Executive Vice President Wolfgang Vogel regarding this latest decision.
Eaton maintains that the redesigned FreedomLine transmission system still infringes on several of its patents, including one on a safety feature that prevents the shifting of transmission gears during skid conditions. In addition to the ITC complaints, the company has a lawsuit in federal district court which it said it intends to vigorously pursue.