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Berry v. Ford Motor Co.

United States District Court, Eastern District of Michigan, Southern Division

April 14, 2015

JOSEPH J. BERRY, Plaintiff,



This matter came before the court on plaintiff Joseph J. Berry's January 14, 2015 motion for partial summary judgment and defendant Ford Motor Company's January 14, 2015 motion for summary judgment. The parties filed responses and reply briefs February 9, 2015, and February 26, 2015. Oral argument was heard April 2, 2015.


When this case was initially removed to this court in February 2011, defendant Ford had applied for patents for its SYNC audio system, but they had not yet issued. Plaintiff Joseph Berry had filed a state court action, claiming the inventions were his, and sued for unjust enrichment and breach of contract. This court remanded the case; however, after the patents issued, the court vacated the order of remand.

Plaintiff’s Fourth Amended Complaint alleges the following causes of action: Count I, unjust enrichment; Count II, fraud in the inducement; Count III, breach of contract; Count IV, “unenforceable agreement”; and Count V, correction of inventorship.

Plaintiff Berry has moved for summary judgment on Count I only; defendant Ford has moved for summary judgment on all counts.


Prior to July 2006, Ford Motor Company decided to develop a system, later named “SYNC, ” that would be competitive with General Motors’ OnStar system. The parties agree that around early September 2006, Doug VanDagens, a Ford representative, contacted Plaintiff and asked for his assistance in developing such a system. Plaintiff did assist Ford, most notably in showing the company how to automatically dial 911 legally and communicate by using touchtones from a cellular phone keyboard. Throughout the fall of 2006, Plaintiff worked on the system. In order to facilitate this work, Ford provided Plaintiff with an office, a computer, an email address and a Ford pass card enabling him to enter Ford premises. Plaintiff contends he worked at this endeavor “pretty much on a five day a week schedule throughout the fall until December 2006.” Plaintiff’s br. at 5. Plaintiff alleges that during that time period he was not given “any money for not only his conception of the new SYNC project, but also his work in developing the architecture necessary to implement the new SYNC project.” Id.

Ford agrees that

[b]etween September and November 2006, Plaintiff participated in several meetings with VanDagens and others at Ford relating to future versions of SYNC. There was no agreement regarding the confidentiality or ownership of the information provided by Plaintiff, and Plaintiff admits that he freely shared his ideas at these meetings without any agreement for compensation. Pl’s dep. at 230-31, 237-38.

Defendant’s br. at 2.

Ford contends that in November 2006, “VanDagens asked Plaintiff to consult for Ford on the development of future SYNC services . . . . It was agreed that in order to secure the services of Plaintiff quickly, Ford would contract with John Zhu and his company LBS Solutions[;] and Plaintiff would work for Ford through LBS.” Id. at 3. Zhu has testified that he agreed to Ford’s terms and conditions and further that he understood that all intellectual property developed during the course of the LBS contract would be owned exclusively by Ford. Plaintiff admits that he performed services under the LBS Purchase Order, including writing LBS’ final report to Ford.

The parties agree that beginning in April 2007 Plaintiff, under his newly-formed company JBJ Advisors (“JBJ”), entered into a subcontractor agreement with Ford to build certain aspects of the SYNC system. The 2007 agreement between the parties was comprised of several documents, including a Request for Quotation (“RFQ”) and a Purchase Order (“PO”), each incorporating Fords’ standard terms and conditions and related supplements. Ford issued and Plaintiff executed an RFQ to “design and develop the Service Delivery Network for SYNC Version 1.5 and 2.0.” The RFQ requested that Plaintiff “[q]uote firm price and delivery of goods and services specified in accordance with [Ford’s] standard terms and conditions and related supplements.”

Section 8 of Ford’s Professional Services Supplemental Terms and Conditions provides Ford with exclusive ownership of ...

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