Lithium Ion Battery Technology Under Fire
Milwaukee Tool and its associated companies (including parent company TTi, Metco Battery Corp, and others) recently filed a series of patent infringement lawsuits against powertool companies Hilti, Snap-On, Tooltechnic Systems LLC (Festool), Chervon North America (suppliers for Kobalt, Craftsman, and Powerforce), and others for selling powertools that use multi-cell lithium ion batteries.
Milwaukee currently holds three patents concerning lithium ion battery technology in powered handtools (7,554,290; 7,944,173; 7,999,510). These patents, in technical langauge, cover the concept a lithiium-manganese battery capable of producing an average discharge current greater than or equal to approximately 20 amps, composed of mutliple cells which are encased in a housing that can be supported by the power tool itself. The patents also describe using terminals inside the tool and battery and the use of a lock mechanism for the battery.
Milwaukee Tool used these patents to offer the first Li-ion tools, their V-28 line, back in 2005 and revolutionized the handheld power tool market. Along with their sister brands Ryobi, Ridgid, and others, Milwaukee is claiming to have sole rights to their patented battery technology. This claim is substantiated by previous patent infringement lawsuits against Makita and Hitachi in 2009, both of which were settled out of court.
Whether companies like Hilti, Snap-on, Festool, and Craftsman will be ponying up for Milwauee’s patent, or foregoing Li-ion all together, is yet to be determined. For more information, read David Frane’s article featured on Tools of the Trade.