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The Intermittent Windshield Wiper

Intellectual Property

The intermittent windshield wiper was an improvement on the already existing windshield wiper which was patented in 1903. The original windshield wiper had only one speed which was very distracting and dangerous while driving in certain conditions.

Robert Kearns tried to sell his invention to Ford Motor Company and Chrysler Corporation, but a few years later almost identical intermittent wipers began appearing on Ford and Chrysler cars. He sued Ford for patent infringement in 1978 and Chrysler in 1982. The companies argued that the intermittent wiper was not novel because it had no new components and therefore didn’t meet the standards of being a patentable invention. Robert Kearns spent nearly 15 years and more than $10 million in legal fees in his fight to be compensated.

The  courts agreed with Robert Kearns and he eventually settled out of court with Ford for $10 million. The Chrysler lawsuit became a high profile case, which Robert Kearns won in 1995 for $30 million in overdue compensation. Robert Kearns died in 2005 but his legal battle remains one of the most famous patent infringement cases in history. His story was even made into a movie called Flash of Genius in 2008.

Posted on 6 July 2012
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