Nissan sues supplier over IP lawsuit

Automaker wants to be reimbursed almost $4M spent on Texas case

Nissan North America has sued one of its suppliers, saying the two companies had agreed that the contractor would defend Nissan against any intellectual property claims arising from the use of its products.

Cool Springs-based Nissan and Schrader Electronics signed a supplier agreement in late 2005. Schrader makes tire pressure monitoring systems for a number of large car manufacturers. The company recently said it plans to expand its Springfield plant to the tune of $10 million.

Nissan filed its complaint last month in Rutherford County Chancery Court, but Schrader last week requested the case be moved to District Court, arguing that venue is better because the two parties are technically incorporated in California and Northern Ireland, respectively.

In July 2007, another auto parts maker, Michigan-based MHL TEK, sued Nissan in Texas. MHL alleged Nissan was violating three patents related to the monitoring of tire pressures and involving Schrader components. Per the companies’ agreement, Nissan executives in October 2007 told their Schrader peers they expected the supplier to take over the lawsuit defense. According to the complaint, Schrader officials refused then and again on several occasions since.

In 2011, the Texas District Court dismissed MHL’s complaint “after four years of active and hotly contested litigation.” An appeals court later affirmed that ruling, which focused in part on the assignment of the patents in question.

In all, Nissan’s complaint says the automaker spent more than $3.7 million to defend itself. The company is asking for a jury trial to get back that money as well as interest and attorneys’ fees. Jonathan Rose of the local office of Bradley Arant Boult Cummings is representing the automaker along with his Montgomery, Ala.-based colleague Charles Stewart.

Scott Sims of Walker Tipps & Malone is representing Schrader.