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Magna, U.S. rival in patent tiff over cameras

Donald Walker, CEO of Magna International Inc., is photographed in 2012. Magna is embroiled in a dispute about driver-assistance cameras that has made its way to the U.S. International Trade Commission.

Fred Lum/The Globe and Mail

Magna International Inc. is embroiled in a dispute about driver-assistance cameras that has made its way to the U.S. International Trade Commission.

TRW Automotive U.S. LLC, which competes with Magna in offering auto makers cameras that help drivers and vehicles react to what's on the road ahead, wants the U.S. tribunal to exclude cameras made by Magna Electronics from the U.S. market.

It's the latest step in a patent dispute between the two companies. The Magna cameras are used on models assembled by auto makers in the United States, as well as Chevrolet Equinox models, which are put together at a General Motors Co. plant in Ingersoll, Ont., and exported south of the border.

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"TRW has established a domestic industry and has invested substantial capital, labour and resources in the research and development of driver-assistance technology and in particular, of forward-facing camera systems," the Livonia, Mich.-based company said in a filing to the ITC.

Driver-assistance cameras are part of a growing trend among auto makers to use technology to improve road safety. Forward-looking cameras are helpful in reducing both rear-end collisions and crashes caused when vehicles veer out of their driving lanes. The technology in the cameras gives drivers an audible warning if they're getting too close to the vehicles in front of them or are straying from their lanes.

In a 2011 news release announcing the development of its system, Magna said statistics show the highest number of fatalities in road accidents are caused when a vehicle leaves the road and crashes.

A study done by the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board a decade ago showed that about one-third of the 6 million vehicle crashes annually on U.S. roads were caused by rear-end crashes.

TRW said the Magna cameras infringe patents it has been awarded for its S-Cam system. Magna has not responded, but the ITC filing also stems from claims and counterclaims the two companies made against each other in a Michigan court battle on the same issue.

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About the Author
Auto and Steel Industry Reporter

Greg Keenan has covered the automotive and steel industries for The Globe and Mail since 1995. He also writes about broader manufacturing trends. He is a graduate of the University of Toronto and of the University of Western Ontario School of Journalism. More

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