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Honda licenses hybrid technology from Baltimore tech firm, Abell Foundation

Another giant automaker has settled with a Russian immigrant inventor and his Baltimore-based backers to license patents for hybrid vehicle technology they’ve been using.

Honda agreed to license the patents from Paice, a Baltimore-based company backed by the Abell Foundation, without a legal battle, the company announced Tuesday.

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Terms of the deal were not disclosed, but it could be worth millions of dollars eventually if Honda expands its toehold in growing hybrid auto sales.

Honda follows Toyota, Hyundai/Kia, Volkswagen and Ford Motor Co. in settling with Paice, which co-owns the patents with the Abell Foundation, the Baltimore nonprofit known for fighting urban poverty that also invests in promising startups .

Paice was founded in 1992 by Alex Severinsky, a Russian immigrant participating in a University of Maryland incubator. His first hybrid vehicle patent was awarded in 1994 and the Abell Foundation began investing in the company five years later.

The foundation has invested millions in Paice's efforts to develop and protect its hybrid technology since 1999. It co-owns 15 U.S. patents with Paice, and Paice owns about 15 additional foreign patents, but the company and Abell have needed to battle to enforce their patents.

Ford Motor Co. agreed to pay Paice and Abell to use their hybrid engine technology earlier this year after a lengthy legal battle.

Toyota settled a lawsuit with Paice over technology used in the Prius by agreeing to pay to license the related patents in 2010. That settlement came after Paice won an International Trade Commission case to enforce its patents.

Paice and Abell subsequently reached settlements with Hyundai and affiliate Kia in 2015, followed by Volkwagen AG in 2017, a deal that also covers Audi and Porsche vehicles.

“The fact that Honda will take a license without the need for legal action shows that our technology patents are now recognized by the industry’s top automakers,” Paice executive chairman Frances Keenan said in a statement.

While one of the world’s top automakers, Honda ranks fourth in hybrid auto sales, well behind the leaders with less than 5 percent of the market. By comparison Toyota has about 60 percent of the market, Ford has 17.5 percent and Hyundai/Kia has 15 percent, according to data maintained by HybridCars.com.

In addition to Paice, the Abell Foundation invests in about three dozen other companies, including other local tech firms such as CyberSpa, Pixelligent and Noxilizer Inc. It uses those investments to bolster its endowment to offer community grants, promote social welfare and fight urban poverty.

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