Inventor Robert Kearns, who died on this day in 2005 at age 77, is who you can thank for intermittent windshield wipers. After receiving a patent for the technology in 1967 he approached the large automakers, hoping they’d license it. They all passed. Yet, beginning in 1969 a similar system began to show up as an option in new vehicles.
Kearns, acting as his own lawyer, went after the Big Three for patent infringement, starting with Ford in 1978 and Chrysler in 1982. The Ford case finally came to a close in 1990. The court ruled the automaker must pay Kearns $10.1 million in damages.
A 1992 verdict against Chrysler again favored Kearns, resulting in some $30 million in damages. A subsequent case against GM was dismissed due to missed deadlines for filings.