Driving forward: the automotive tech fueling IP interests

Vehicles are a lot of
things to many people. At their heart, they’re a main mode of transportation
that ferry passengers to and from spots, including metropolitan areas, states, international locations,
and even continents, supplying a sense of id for some and crucial
utility function for many others.

In this way, autos and
other cars have turn out to be essential to modern-day life – and as a final result of new
innovation, they’re starting to be even additional integral.

Cars have
grow to be more than just a mode of transportation they have integrated them selves
with our electronic life and automated every day functions. Technological
developments that the moment appeared largely theoretical to a great deal of the general public additional
than a 10 years ago have speedily come to be a fact.

In a former
post, we examined many IP difficulties confronting automotive businesses
similar to patenting AI-linked inventions, which includes patent eligibility,
inventorship, and trade secrets.

In this article, we consider advancements in
automotive technologies, both equally from patent filings and from the standpoint of
historical litigation trends in rising systems, touching on aspects of
autonomous cars, related autos, and style and design patents.

A wave of
technological innovation has pushed the IP footprint of auto brands
over and above the fundamental principles of automotive structure and into realms that had beforehand been
recognised as superior tech.

But historical past has shown
that the prospective for litigation raises as companies stake positions on
innovation, market place share, and differentiation from competition in rapidly-rising
tech – as evidenced by the advent of the electric light, heavier-than-air
flight, and the so-named smartphone wars.

In latest many years,
there has been a marked boost in patent filings encompassing autonomous
autos, AI, and linked cars, which may perhaps sign the possible for
amplified litigation as these systems combine into the marketplace.

As technology will become
much more integrated and proceeds to cross marketplace boundaries, car
corporations will require to grapple with conventional essential patents (SEPs), which
have observed historically elevated litigation for cellular, smartphone, and
computer brands, and considerably less so for automotive organizations.

In addition, traits
in obtaining design and style patents to safeguard models of substitution areas may possibly offer
supplemental avenues for automotive companies to stop counterfeit products,
enabling them to improve brand name images, guarantee high quality of pieces, and retain
security standards.

A the latest federal
appeals court’s final decision upholding the use of structure patents for replacement
areas has brought improved interest to the possible that style and design patents may perhaps

Increasing tech

It is no magic formula that
automotive corporations are acquiring systems at an extraordinary speed and
investing substantial methods to do so.

Patent programs
submitted for autonomous motor vehicles and connected vehicles keep on to increase
globally and are among the fastest increasing technologies in the automotive

Notwithstanding core
systems in driving operations, amplified connectivity and person ordeals
–such as infotainment techniques, 5G integration, and other historically
non-automotive technologies – are now built-in in the course of the sector.

The the latest increases
in patent filings for autonomous motor vehicle patents will have an affect on the two passenger
autos with self-driving modes and absolutely autonomous vehicles, these as autonomous
trip sharing and taxi expert services.

Late-phase tests
deployments and early rider programmes are now bringing such know-how
into the mainstream of general public life. For example, synthetic intelligence is now
a driving force at the rear of autonomous car enhancement and is one particular of the fastest
expanding segments in the automotive industry and patent filings.

When the continued
advancement and technological advancement of driverless automobiles is seen as a
favourable improvement in the purchaser driving expertise, it also raises concerns
related to SEPs and, in certain, 5G.

One advantage of SEPs
is the prospective for simplifying licensing when declared and licensed underneath the
criteria placing bodies’ guidelines.

An IPlytics research in
January 2020 determined that a lot more than 95,000 patents have been declared common
necessary with regard to 5G.

Of those people, practically a
quarter of the patent people declared were also declared crucial to
previous 2G, 3G, or 4G benchmarks.

Some patent owners
not matter to SEP declarations have tried out to enforce patents they considered
have been crucial to standards as systems came to marketplace. This kind of litigations
surrounded 802.11 Wi-Fi benchmarks, 3G, and LTE in the late 1990s and 2000s.

Not long ago, even though
not exclusively specific at 5G engineering, Conversant sued Tesla in excess of Tesla’s
integration of 3GPP and 4G/LTE requirements at the District Courtroom for the Western
District of Texas.

This case was
dismissed in December 2020, but might sign the likely for litigation
surrounding SEPs and automotive organizations in the upcoming.

SEPs might also turn into
important to carry autonomous vehicles into the mainstream, not just to
converse more than cellular networks, but also with vehicle suppliers to make sure
that autonomous cars kind a cohesive ecosystem.

Outside the house automotive

As cars become
far more linked, they may also turn out to be much more reliant on typically
non-automotive providers’ know-how to be free of charge of IP problems.

A person instance is the
integration of infotainment programs that are appropriate with other electronic
units. Patent plaintiffs do not constantly allege infringement of the resource of
technological innovation but can assert their patents versus the ultimate buyer solution.

For case in point, considering that
2011, extra than 40 district courtroom patent infringement issues have
exclusively alleged infringement relevant to car infotainment systems,
these types of as Bluetooth or provider software program, that may not have been formulated by the
auto company. Nearly fifty percent of those conditions had been filed in 2020 or 2021.

Superior tech firms
in the shopper electronics room are now shifting into the automotive place and
producing patent portfolios on many systems employed in vehicles and vans.
IP litigation in purchaser electronics may well, hence, bleed into the automotive

Historically, patent
litigation has increased right after durations of intensive technological innovation, and
could be perceived as a marker for aggressive innovation.

Some of the earliest
ground-breaking systems have been met with substantial-profile IP litigation. For
instance, the commercially viable electrical lightbulb was litigated in between
Edison and Westinghouse in a bid to garner the emerging electric powered gentle field
and to identify not just current market shares, but irrespective of whether the country would undertake
alternating current or immediate latest technologies.

flight also saw an IP war in between the Wright Brothers and Glenn Curtiss in the
budding aviation business. The increase of smartphones led to weighty litigation in
the smartphone wars.

Provided the probable
of autonomous cars, AI integration, and other speedily growing automotive
technologies, heritage suggests that enhanced litigation may perhaps be on the horizon.

Though automotive
market gamers may perhaps not want to relive the smartphone wars in competitor
suits, potential litigation challenges may perhaps not appear from classic automotive

Rather, they may perhaps
begin in non-automotive fields, including AI, SEPs connected to 5G, and
electrical infrastructure.

RPX not too long ago
revealed a research getting a 182% rise in automotive patent litigations filed by
non-practising entities (NPEs) in between Q3 2020 and Q3 2021.

Whilst a lot of other
industries also noticed rises in NPE litigation, the rise in automotive was the
premier of any sector analyzed in the research.

This rise correlates
with a normal uptick in litigations considering the fact that 2018, but it is value noting that
the interval amongst 2010 and 2015 also marked the high point in litigations
filed against automotive entities, according to LegalMetric info.

Federal government gears

Though patent
litigation is pushed by numerous things inside the current market, external things, such
as governmental conclusions, may possibly condition the industry and the advancement of

For instance,
California a short while ago established a goal to have all light-weight-obligation autonomous auto sales
be zero-emission motor vehicles by 2030, and all own automotive product sales be
electric automobiles (EVs) by 2035.

Many countries and
governments outdoors of the US have also set or proposed targets for rising
electric powered car or truck profits and setting requirements for autonomous car or truck security

These directives, if
held to, could immediate innovation, including patent filings and litigations.

They also call for
foreseeable future investments in infrastructure and may consequence in a bigger need for selected
sorts of motor vehicles in the current market.

As such, EV charging
infrastructure, fuel mobile technology, and EV technology – by now in close proximity to the
forefront of patent filings – may come across itself as an emerging spot of litigation
as corporations commit in these systems to satisfy governmental and regulatory

Government directives
may also have ripple outcomes in non-automotive utility industries that dovetail
with automotive.

As the quantity of and
need to have for electric charging stations raise, the power grid should bear the
additional load, most likely crossing above into grid infrastructure patents.

A 2020 California
Impartial Method Operator report noted that amplified utility usage from substantial
temperatures, source adequacy, and setting up procedures were being probable
contributors of rolling blackouts.

Investments in
electrical car or truck technological know-how may possibly, thus, contact not only on the technological innovation of
the charging stations themselves, but also the greater infrastructure
supporting those technologies.

Design dilemmas 

Structure patents have
turn out to be a strategically crucial IP asset for automobile makers to, amongst other
matters, stop counterfeit pieces and present top quality management about the style
and physical appearance of their products, when utility patents or trade costume
assertions could not be feasible.

Design patents make it possible for
automakers to shield non-practical elements of factors and to bring suit
against infringers who make, offer, or offer to offer a product or service utilizing a protected

Style and design patent
litigation regarding automobile pieces has received enhanced notice in the
courts in the course of the past number of decades.

In two new opinions, the Court docket of Appeals for the Federal Circuit held that style and design patents may well shield designs for alternative vehicle areas – see Ford v New Environment Intercontinental from 2020 and Automotive Physique Components Association v Ford from 2019. 

This kind of affirmation
could provide to bolster protection for suppliers and pave the way for
doable enforcement from counterfeiters and knock-off goods.

Design patents may be
a generally defensive or protecting area at this time, but the current appeals
courtroom conclusions could fortify automotive manufacturers’ self confidence in the
relevance of design patents in safeguarding their brands and customer

Notably, one particular of the
most watched patent litigations in the latest historical past associated style and design patent
assertions from Apple from Samsung covering the structure of graphical consumer

As automotive
firms continue on to combine systems and enhance person encounters, quite a few
of which are driven by graphical consumer interfaces, together with infotainment
techniques and the substitute of regular, analog gauges with improved electronic
displays, design and style patent protection may perhaps even further differentiate and offer
protection for automotive brands looking to supply special and
identifiable user activities to shoppers.

As time goes on in the fast-evolving automotive market,
sophisticated automotive technologies will keep on to impact not only patent
filings but also the opportunity for IP litigation.

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

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