TVS discards plans for disputed engine

TVS discards plans for disputed engine
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First Published: Mon, May 05 2008. 09 59 AM IST
Updated: Mon, May 05 2008. 09 59 AM IST
New Delhi: TVS Motor Co. Ltd, India’s third largest bike maker which is locked in an eight-month-old technology infringement dispute with larger rival Bajaj Auto Ltd, will not reintroduce the engine at the heart of the controversy because it would have sold too many bikes using alterative technology in the interim, said a person familiar with the matter.
TVS is in a legal tussle after Bajaj Auto accused it of potentially infringing technology that uses two spark igniters in the engine in the TVS Flame bike that was introduced last year. Bajaj claimed that the engine in the bike was similar to the one it had patented and took the matter to court.
The Madras high court in the meantime temporarily halted the sale of Flame bikes using the original two spark and three valve technology, forcing TVS to launch the bike with a different engine with a single spark igniter. So far, TVS has been selling about 10,000 units of the model that uses the single spark igniter each month and it plans to more than double production to about 25,000 units a month by October.
“The vehicle gives the same performance (as the original one), but at a lower cost,” said the person, who didn’t want to be identified because the matter is still in court.
“Besides, the company would have sold around 100,000 units of the vehicle by the time they would be ready to relaunch it with the old engine (if the court rules in TVS’ favour). And then, these customers (left with the new engine) would feel short-changed.”
He wouldn’t say how the costs of the new engine compared with that of the old.
The new engine uses a single spark ignition engine based on the Controlled Combustion Variable Timing Intelligent (CC-VTi) technology.
TVS officials refused to comment on the matter since a final court verdict is pending. After the Madras high court restrained it from selling the vehicle with the original engine, TVS appealed against the verdict before a bench of the same court. The bench has heard the arguments of both the sides and both firms expect a judgement next month.
The dispute between Bajaj and TVS relates to a technology where two igniters are used to fire an engine instead of one for better fuel efficiency. Bajaj claims to have patented this and says TVS may have infringed this technology. Bajaj, which uses the moniker Digital Twin Spark ignition, or DTSi, uses this in four of its models—Pulsar, Avenger, XCD and Discover.
TVS says twin spark igniters have been used for decades and Bajaj’s claim of exclusivity is questionable, and that TVS’ technology, which is under dispute, uses three valves instead of two used in DTSi, with very little similarity between the two engines.
TVS worked on the engine along with a European technology provider called AVL List GmbH.
In what has become a heated battle, TVS has responded with two more suits against Bajaj in the Bombay high court to claim damages for defamation and another for revocation of Bajaj’s patent in the Intellectual Property Appellate Board, a quasi-judicial body.
“The company is fighting it more as a matter of principle,” said the person. “They consider it (the Bajaj patent) a private encroachment on public property.”
Bajaj has introduced XCD that competes for the same customer as the Flame. One in every two motorcycles sold in India belongs to this category, known as the executive segment, which is one notch above entry-level bikes. the battle comes even as overall bike sales declined in the year ended March and have only slightly recovered ground in April, led by festive season and wedding purchases.
In April, TVS reported a 5% increase in sales over a year ago, after it sold more Flames and Sport motorcycles. Chairman and managing director Venu Srinivasan is targeting a 15% growth in sales this fiscal year, banking on the performance of these vehicles.
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First Published: Mon, May 05 2008. 09 59 AM IST