Ford (and Chrysler) still in trouble over intermittent wipers…

October 6, 2008

Source: Autoblog

Engineer Bob Kearns had been granted a patent for a design of intermittent windshield wipers in 1967, two years before Ford introduced them in production. Unfortunately for Kearns, Ford had “developed” its own system rather than licensing Kearns’ design.

Needless to say, litigation ensued and it took until 1995 for the U.S. Supreme Court to finally rule against Ford and Chrysler and award Kearns $30 million. That story has now been turned into a major motion picture being released this week called Flash of Genius, and Ford wants you to know that the facts of the matter are much less dramatic than what the movie portrays.

While reminding people that the facts have been dramatized, Ford also mentions that a jury ruled it did not “willfully” infringe on Kearns’ patent. That’s not to say Ford and Chrysler didn’t infringe – juries ruled that they did. It just wasn’t “willful.” Did Kearns ultimately win? That’s hard to say considering how his life turned out, but he was vindicated. On the other hand, many owners of older English cars would argue that Joseph Lucas invented the intermittent windshield wiper, although again not willfully.


The film “Flash of Genius” chronicles the life story of Bob Kearns, who asserted that he invented the intermittent windshield wiper and sued Ford, Chrysler and other automakers for patent infringement. While films like “Flash of Genius” are made for entertainment purposes, the facts are often less dramatic.

Bob Kearns as well as hundreds of engineers from many companies, including Ford, helped develop the intermittent wiper as part of an evolution of existing automotive and electronic components.

While there are inaccuracies in the film, Ford sees no value in re-hashing the history of a legal case that was resolved in court almost 20 years ago, when a jury ruled that Ford did not willfully violate Mr. Kearns’ patent.

Today, Ford continues to make engineering and design breakthroughs in areas such as fuel efficiency, safety and smart technology, and is proud of its 100-year legacy of innovation in automotive technology.



  1. Go see the movie and decide for yourself.

    For a long time now Scientists and Engineers have been marginalized by the
    business and finance guys who shuffle paper to make ‘profits’ . . . today we
    are seeing where this has taken us, a financial breakdown of at an enormous

    The big companies were started by brilliant engineers back in the last two
    centuris, and we can’t continue to treat our brilliant minds with disdain
    and reward the Marketing, Finance and Lawyers with the bulk of the wealth
    simply because they place themselves where the money is distributed.

    There is a disconnect with Politicians -who are universally lawyers and business people- saying they want young people to go into the sciences,
    just to be worked to death without recognition and have their jobs out-
    sourced by a math-challenged manager with an MBA from Pepperdine
    (US World reports ‘MBA Paper Mill to be Avoided’).

    How many of FORDs top level management can do any kind of engineering?

    As an engineer myself I cannot suggest to my children to take up the
    profession which is being sent to foreign countries to be performed, are
    they really so stupid to think that Japan and China and India cannot figure
    our how to bypass the US and do it all? My Director level manager -at one of
    the worlds largest Aerospace companies- told us a few years back that we
    didn’t have to worry that Asia would overtake us in aerospace because
    “only B_e_ng knew the complex formulas for making wings”. This from a
    guy who majored in “Economics” at U of W, the ONLY degree that was
    considered more of a joke than “Political Science” when I attended CA’s most
    selective UC campus under a full scholarship to study Physics (when asked
    why I did not accept the same full ride to USC, I like to say that it was
    because ‘I had a choice’).

  2. I agree with Proud Engineer totally. Having watched the movie i totally against corrupt corporations who only think for themselves with no ethical consideration for others. Look where this corporate attitude have led us now. Again and again history has taught us. We got to make a big human evolution leap because we are living in the time of materialism and ‘affluenza’ virus which will stunt our spiritual growth.

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