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Robert Kearns, Inventor of Intermittent Windshield Wipers and Battled Car Companies, Dies at 77

Robert Kerns

"Flash of Genius" on Prime

DETROIT February 25, 2005; The AP reported that Robert Kearns, the inventor of intermittent windshield wipers who won multimillion-dollar judgments against Ford and Chrysler for using his idea, has died. He was 77.

Kearns died of cancer Feb. 9 at his home in suburban Baltimore, his family said.

Kearns, a onetime Wayne State University professor, received numerous patents in 1967 for his design for wipers that paused between swipes, making them useful in very light rain or mist. The invention allows the driver to set the interval at which the wiper sweeps the window.

He shopped his invention around to various automakers but did not reach a licensing deal with any of them. But carmakers eventually began offering intermittent wipers as standard or optional equipment.

Kearns sued Ford Motor Co. in 1978 and Chrysler in 1982, claiming patent infringement.