Driving ahead: the automotive tech fuelling IP pursuits

Cars are a lot of
things to quite a few people today. At their coronary heart, they are a main method of transportation
that ferry travellers to and from spots, such as metropolitan areas, states, nations,
and even continents, giving a feeling of id for some and crucial
utility purpose for many others.

In this way, cars and trucks and
other automobiles have turn into essential to contemporary existence – and as a final result of new
innovation, they are turning into even extra integral.

Automobiles have
develop into far more than just a mode of transportation they have built-in them selves
with our digital life and automated daily capabilities. Technological
breakthroughs that when seemed mainly theoretical to much of the community a lot more
than a 10 years back have rapidly turn into a truth.

In a former
posting, we examined several IP problems confronting automotive providers
relevant to patenting AI-relevant inventions, like patent eligibility,
inventorship, and trade strategies.

In this short article, we contemplate progress in
automotive technologies, the two from patent filings and from the standpoint of
historic litigation trends in emerging technologies, touching on aspects of
autonomous vehicles, linked cars, and design patents.

A wave of
technological innovation has pushed the IP footprint of motor vehicle manufacturers
further than the basic principles of automotive style and into realms that experienced previously been
recognised as higher tech.

But heritage has shown
that the possible for litigation boosts as firms stake positions on
innovation, marketplace share, and differentiation from opponents in speedy-escalating
tech – as evidenced by the advent of the electric powered light-weight, heavier-than-air
flight, and the so-named smartphone wars.

In latest decades,
there has been a marked improve in patent filings bordering autonomous
cars, AI, and related vehicles, which might sign the likely for
amplified litigation as these technologies combine into the marketplace.

As engineering results in being
extra built-in and carries on to cross field boundaries, vehicle
organizations will require to grapple with typical necessary patents (SEPs), which
have found traditionally improved litigation for mobile, smartphone, and
personal computer producers, and fewer so for automotive companies.

In addition, developments
in obtaining structure patents to shield models of alternative parts might present
more avenues for automotive organizations to avert counterfeit solutions,
allowing for them to improve brand images, assure top quality of pieces, and sustain
basic safety criteria.

A modern federal
appeals court’s conclusion upholding the use of structure patents for substitution
sections has brought improved interest to the opportunity that design patents may perhaps
offer you.

Growing tech

It is no top secret that
automotive corporations are establishing technologies at an unbelievable tempo and
investing major means to do so.

Patent purposes
submitted for autonomous autos and linked automobiles continue to rise
globally and are amid the quickest increasing systems in the automotive

Notwithstanding core
systems in driving functions, amplified connectivity and person experiences
–such as infotainment devices, 5G integration, and other typically
non-automotive technologies – are now integrated all over the sector.

The current raises
in patent filings for autonomous vehicle patents will have an impact on equally passenger
cars and trucks with self-driving modes and completely autonomous motor vehicles, these kinds of as autonomous
experience sharing and taxi services.

Late-stage testing
deployments and early rider programmes are presently bringing these kinds of technology
into the mainstream of general public lifetime. For illustration, synthetic intelligence is now
a driving force behind autonomous automobile development and is one particular of the speediest
escalating segments in the automotive field and patent filings.

Though the continued
expansion and technological development of driverless automobiles is noticed as a
constructive advancement in the client driving encounter, it also raises difficulties
connected to SEPs and, in unique, 5G.

A person gain of SEPs
is the potential for simplifying licensing when declared and licensed beneath the
standards environment bodies’ policies.

An IPlytics study in
January 2020 identified that much more than 95,000 patents had been declared typical
essential with regard to 5G.

Of those, almost a
quarter of the patent households declared had been also declared crucial to
past 2G, 3G, or 4G requirements.

Some patent house owners
not issue to SEP declarations have tried using to enforce patents they believed
were critical to standards as systems came to market place. These litigations
surrounded 802.11 Wi-Fi specifications, 3G, and LTE in the late 1990s and 2000s.

Just lately, though
not specifically targeted at 5G technology, Conversant sued Tesla in excess of Tesla’s
integration of 3GPP and 4G/LTE standards at the District Courtroom for the Western
District of Texas.

This scenario was
dismissed in December 2020, but could signal the probable for litigation
surrounding SEPs and automotive firms in the potential.

SEPs may well also develop into
crucial to bring autonomous vehicles into the mainstream, not just to
talk over mobile networks, but also with automobile brands to ensure
that autonomous automobiles type a cohesive ecosystem.

Outside automotive

As automobiles turn out to be
far more connected, they may possibly also grow to be more reliant on customarily
non-automotive providers’ technologies to be no cost of IP troubles.

Just one instance is the
integration of infotainment devices that are appropriate with other digital
gadgets. Patent plaintiffs do not always allege infringement of the resource of
technologies but can assert their patents from the best shopper products.

For case in point, considering the fact that
2011, extra than 40 district court patent infringement problems have
particularly alleged infringement linked to vehicle infotainment units,
this sort of as Bluetooth or provider computer software, that may perhaps not have been developed by the
car company. Virtually half of all those scenarios ended up submitted in 2020 or 2021.

Higher tech corporations
in the client electronics house are now transferring into the automotive area and
building patent portfolios on various technologies employed in vehicles and vehicles.
IP litigation in shopper electronics may well, as a result, bleed into the automotive

Traditionally, patent
litigation has improved right after intervals of rigorous technological innovation, and
could be perceived as a marker for aggressive innovation.

Some of the earliest
floor-breaking systems were being fulfilled with substantial-profile IP litigation. For
example, the commercially practical electric lightbulb was litigated concerning
Edison and Westinghouse in a bid to garner the emerging electric powered light-weight business
and to ascertain not just current market shares, but irrespective of whether the country would adopt
alternating present or immediate latest systems.

flight also observed an IP war in between the Wright Brothers and Glenn Curtiss in the
budding aviation field. The rise of smartphones led to major litigation in
the smartphone wars.

Supplied the opportunity
of autonomous cars, AI integration, and other promptly developing automotive
technologies, historical past implies that improved litigation might be on the horizon.

Even though automotive
field gamers may possibly not want to relive the smartphone wars in competitor
fits, upcoming litigation hazards may perhaps not occur from regular automotive

As an alternative, they might
start off in non-automotive fields, like AI, SEPs connected to 5G, and
electrical infrastructure.

RPX a short while ago
published a analyze finding a 182% increase in automotive patent litigations submitted by
non-practising entities (NPEs) amongst Q3 2020 and Q3 2021.

Despite the fact that several other
industries also observed rises in NPE litigation, the rise in automotive was the
greatest of any sector analyzed in the analyze.

This rise correlates
with a common uptick in litigations since 2018, but it is truly worth noting that
the period of time involving 2010 and 2015 also marked the substantial place in litigations
submitted against automotive entities, according to LegalMetric data.

Governing administration gears

Though patent
litigation is pushed by quite a few things within just the industry, exterior elements, this sort of
as governmental selections, could condition the market place and the improvement of

For illustration,
California just lately set a target to have all light-weight-obligation autonomous car or truck product sales
be zero-emission motor vehicles by 2030, and all personalized automotive product sales be
electrical autos (EVs) by 2035.

Quite a few nations and
governments outside the house of the US have also set or proposed ambitions for expanding
electric car revenue and placing expectations for autonomous vehicle protection

These types of directives, if
held to, might direct innovation, which include patent filings and litigations.

They also have to have
potential investments in infrastructure and may perhaps outcome in a increased desire for specific
varieties of autos in the sector.

As these kinds of, EV charging
infrastructure, gas cell know-how, and EV engineering – by now near the
forefront of patent filings – might find by itself as an emerging space of litigation
as firms spend in these technologies to meet up with governmental and regulatory

Govt directives
may possibly also have ripple effects in non-automotive utility industries that dovetail
with automotive.

As the variety of and
need for electric powered charging stations maximize, the electrical power grid should bear the
added load, potentially crossing around into grid infrastructure patents.

A 2020 California
Unbiased Procedure Operator report noted that greater utility utilization from high
temperatures, useful resource adequacy, and arranging procedures ended up most likely
contributors of rolling blackouts.

Investments in
electrical car or truck know-how might, consequently, contact not only on the technologies of
the charging stations themselves, but also the larger infrastructure
supporting individuals technologies.

Design dilemmas 

Style patents have
grow to be a strategically essential IP asset for automobile makers to, among other
issues, reduce counterfeit components and present excellent regulate over the design
and physical appearance of their goods, when utility patents or trade dress
assertions could not be feasible.

Design and style patents make it possible for
automakers to guard non-functional components of factors and to bring go well with
in opposition to infringers who make, offer, or provide to offer a product applying a shielded

Style and design patent
litigation concerning automobile elements has received greater awareness in the
courts through the past handful of many years.

In two latest opinions, the Court docket of Appeals for the Federal Circuit held that structure patents may perhaps protect patterns for replacement auto areas – see Ford v New Globe International from 2020 and Automotive Overall body Parts Association v Ford from 2019. 

These kinds of confirmation
could serve to bolster safety for manufacturers and pave the way for
attainable enforcement against counterfeiters and knock-off products.

Style and design patents may well be
a usually defensive or protecting spot at this time, but the recent appeals
courtroom selections could improve automotive manufacturers’ assurance in the
great importance of design patents in defending their brand names and customer

Notably, 1 of the
most viewed patent litigations in latest background associated design patent
assertions from Apple in opposition to Samsung masking the design of graphical person

As automotive
businesses continue on to integrate systems and strengthen consumer activities, a lot of
of which are pushed by graphical user interfaces, which includes infotainment
systems and the alternative of standard, analog gauges with increased digital
shows, style patent protection may possibly more differentiate and offer
safety for automotive suppliers looking to provide one of a kind and
identifiable user encounters to buyers.

As time goes on in the quickly-evolving automotive sector,
innovative automotive technologies will keep on to impact not only patent
filings but also the potential for IP litigation.

This write-up was authored by Kevin Rodkey and Kara Specht (partners in Atlanta) and Kathryn Judson (an associate in Atlanta) at Finnegan

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