Ever since the invention of the first motorized vehicle, the automotive industry has grown and developed exponentially. There are several reasons behind this growth. These include high competition levels, globalization, urbanization, commercialization, and more recently, digitalization. Another factor which is sometimes overlooked is the abundance of patents within the industry.
Both design and utility patents serve to encourage research and development within the automotive industry. This research and development in turn causes the industry to grow exponentially. Further innovations, research strategies, and even licensing opportunities can also be the results of this research and development as well as the related industrial growth. Thus, patents play crucial roles within the landscape of today’s automotive industry.
Automotive patents cover a variety of technologies and innovations within the industry. The majority of automotive patent holders are automotive manufacturers and suppliers. However, they are not the only entities to own such patents. Companies in other fields as well as some individuals may also hold automotive patents.
In the automotive industry, items which may receive intellectual property protection through patents include engines, hybrid vehicles, safety systems, electronic control systems, and exhaust systems. Additionally, the automotive sector has increasingly begun to work with the technology and telecommunications sectors. Through these collaborations, it is expected that the frequency of filing of automotive patents will continue to increase over the coming years.
Many upcoming patents in the industry are expected to be standard essential patents (SEPs). SEPs are patents for inventions which must be used for technical standard compliance. Technological companies frequently make use of SEPs. Through collaboration with these companies, automotive businesses may do likewise as they become more familiar with SEPs.
Automotive Patent Trends
When one analyzes recent trends related to automotive patents, certain trends begin to make themselves evident. For example, recent trends show that innovation has been most frequent in technologies used for vehicle navigation and controlling systems, vehicles which integrate artificial intelligence (AI), and ancillary vehicle systems. On the other hand, patents related to internal combustion engine technology have experienced a steady decline since 2014.
Many non-automotive companies have chosen to file automotive patents in attempts to make their way into the industry. The majority of these companies are technology companies. These technology companies typically file patents for autonomous vehicles as well as technologies and software to be used in those vehicles. The prevailing patent trends thus make it incumbent on automotive companies to create patent strategies which take the patentability criteria of computer-related inventions (CRIs) into account.
Application for Automotive Patents
Those who can apply for patents for automotive innovations ought to take such action whenever possible. This way, they will deny anyone who intends to infringe upon their rights the ability to do so. However, those who seek a patent should take note of the fact that not every automotive innovation qualifies for patent protection. Certain AI or Internet of Vehicles technologies might not necessarily qualify because they might be deemed to be mathematical algorithms or abstract ideas. If they are ruled to be such, they cannot be patented.
It is also possible for an automotive designer to file and obtain a design patent. These design patents apply to the shapes and designs of vehicle portions. Examples of items for which design patents can be filed include headlights, bumpers, fenders, interior display screens, and valve assemblies. Design patents prevent manufacturers of replacement parts who might seek to violate intellectual property rights by making exact copies of the original parts the ability to do so.
Patent Litigation and the Automotive Industry
The frequency of patent litigation within the automotive industry has been steadily increasing. One of the main reasons why such has been the case lies in this fact: most holders of automotive intellectual property rights are generally willing to either assert their patent rights or sell their patents. Many of these rights relate to new automotive technology. Much of the new technology did not originate from the automotive industry, meaning that manufacturers and suppliers do not possess the original patents.
The increased activity of non-practicing entities (NPEs) in the industry has also made patent litigation a much more frequent occurrence than it has been in the past. In recent times, issues such as wireless connectivity and traditional automotive technologies have been major legal battlegrounds within the industry. Many NPEs have become known for their many lawsuits against automotive manufacturers and are usually supported by original equipment manufacturers (OEMs).
This article is brought to you by Exy Intellectual Property Malaysia and Singapore.