Software firm suing Ford for theft of trade secrets

Michael Martinez
The Detroit News

Southfield — An attorney for Texas-based software company Versata — which is suing Ford Motor Co. for more than a billion dollars for allegedly stealing trade secrets — said at a press event Thursday his client plans to take the case to trial and win.

“We intend to prove that our software and our design was stolen, stolen through deceitful activities, and that now we’re watching a coverup unfold,” said Lanny Davis, attorney for the software company.

The software in question can gather every possible configuration of an automobile — engine sizes, optional features, etc. — and determine which ones would be unfeasible (for example, a car with a sunroof couldn’t including rear air conditioning ducts on the roof). Versata says it’s invested about $300 million to develop the technology and that it saves Ford significant time and money. Ford began working on its own software in 2010, Versata says.

Versata alleges that at a meeting in December 2014 in which it believed its contract with Ford would be extended, Ford told Versata it would terminate the contract since it had developed its own version of the software. Versata alleges between 10-15 Ford employees who worked on its new technology also knew of and worked with Versata.

“We clearly have discovered numerous bad deeds that we believe warrant illumination,” Mike Richards, president of Versata, told reporters Thursday. “I’m completely baffled by what we’ve observed.”

The automaker issued a statement saying: “Ford’s patented software does not use or infringe any Versata intellectual property and Versata has provided no basis for their claims against us. We are confident that we will ultimately prevail in this case and we look forward to the opportunity to present our evidence at trial.”

Versata has worked with Ford on the technology for 15 years and currently works with FordDirect and Ford’s information technology department, but Richards says this lawsuit is likely to sour its relationship and hurt its business with the automaker. Versata also works with other automakers.

Versata in May filed a lawsuit against Ford in Texas and issued an injunction requesting Ford to immediately stop using the software in question. Ford is requesting a trial in Michigan. Verstata expects a decision on where the trial will be held within the next few months.

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