Driving forward: the automotive tech fueling IP interests

Lyle Ellerbee

Automobiles are a lot of
issues to many men and women. At their heart, they’re a core mode of transportation
that ferry passengers to and from destinations, which includes metropolitan areas, states, nations around the world,
and even continents, supplying a perception of identification for some and critical
utility purpose for other people.

In this way, autos and
other vehicles have grow to be critical to modern-day daily life – and as a result of new
innovation, they’re getting even a lot more integral.

Vehicles have
grow to be more than just a manner of transportation they have built-in by themselves
with our electronic lives and automatic day-to-day features. Technological
breakthroughs that the moment appeared mostly theoretical to substantially of the public far more
than a decade ago have quickly turn out to be a truth.

In a former
report, we examined a variety of IP issues confronting automotive corporations
related to patenting AI-associated innovations, like patent eligibility,
inventorship, and trade secrets and techniques.

In this write-up, we look at developments in
automotive technologies, the two from patent filings and from the standpoint of
historic litigation trends in rising systems, touching on aspects of
autonomous cars, connected automobiles, and design and style patents.

A wave of
technological innovation has pushed the IP footprint of motor vehicle makers
past the fundamental principles of automotive design and style and into realms that had previously been
recognised as significant tech.

But background has demonstrated
that the possible for litigation improves as companies stake positions on
innovation, current market share, and differentiation from competition in quick-growing
tech – as evidenced by the introduction of the electrical gentle, heavier-than-air
flight, and the so-identified as smartphone wars.

In current years,
there has been a marked improve in patent filings encompassing autonomous
cars, AI, and connected cars, which may sign the opportunity for
improved litigation as these technologies combine into the market.

As know-how gets
much more integrated and continues to cross market boundaries, car
providers will will need to grapple with typical critical patents (SEPs), which
have seen historically elevated litigation for cellular, smartphone, and
computer system suppliers, and considerably less so for automotive corporations.

In addition, tendencies
in getting style patents to secure types of substitute elements may well give
additional avenues for automotive companies to prevent counterfeit merchandise,
permitting them to strengthen brand photos, assure good quality of sections, and preserve
basic safety requirements.

A current federal
appeals court’s decision upholding the use of structure patents for substitute
pieces has introduced greater interest to the likely that layout patents may
offer you.

Growing tech

It is no solution that
automotive companies are producing systems at an incredible rate and
investing significant assets to do so.

Patent programs
filed for autonomous motor vehicles and connected automobiles carry on to increase
globally and are among the the speediest rising technologies in the automotive

Notwithstanding core
technologies in driving operations, elevated connectivity and person encounters
–such as infotainment techniques, 5G integration, and other customarily
non-automotive systems – are now built-in in the course of the industry.

The new raises
in patent filings for autonomous automobile patents will have an impact on each passenger
cars with self-driving modes and absolutely autonomous vehicles, these as autonomous
experience sharing and taxi solutions.

Late-phase testing
deployments and early rider programmes are presently bringing such technology
into the mainstream of public everyday living. For example, synthetic intelligence is now
a driving drive driving autonomous motor vehicle improvement and is one of the quickest
growing segments in the automotive business and patent filings.

Even though the continued
expansion and technological development of driverless automobiles is observed as a
good progression in the purchaser driving expertise, it also raises troubles
similar to SEPs and, in certain, 5G.

1 profit of SEPs
is the potential for simplifying licensing when declared and accredited less than the
criteria environment bodies’ insurance policies.

An IPlytics review in
January 2020 decided that additional than 95,000 patents were being declared regular
critical with regard to 5G.

Of all those, virtually a
quarter of the patent family members declared were also declared important to
earlier 2G, 3G, or 4G benchmarks.

Some patent homeowners
not topic to SEP declarations have tried to implement patents they believed
had been vital to criteria as systems arrived to industry. These types of litigations
surrounded 802.11 Wi-Fi standards, 3G, and LTE in the late 1990s and 2000s.

A short while ago, though
not exclusively specific at 5G technological innovation, Conversant sued Tesla above Tesla’s
integration of 3GPP and 4G/LTE specifications at the District Court docket for the Western
District of Texas.

This situation was
dismissed in December 2020, but may well signal the likely for litigation
encompassing SEPs and automotive corporations in the foreseeable future.

SEPs may perhaps also become
significant to provide autonomous motor vehicles into the mainstream, not just to
communicate over mobile networks, but also with car suppliers to assure
that autonomous vehicles kind a cohesive ecosystem.

Outdoors automotive

As vehicles turn into
a lot more connected, they may also develop into a lot more reliant on typically
non-automotive providers’ engineering to be no cost of IP concerns.

A single instance is the
integration of infotainment systems that are suitable with other digital
units. Patent plaintiffs do not normally allege infringement of the source of
know-how but can assert their patents from the greatest shopper product.

For case in point, considering the fact that
2011, far more than 40 district court patent infringement problems have
specially alleged infringement relevant to car infotainment systems,
this sort of as Bluetooth or supplier program, that could not have been created by the
auto producer. Nearly half of all those situations were submitted in 2020 or 2021.

Large tech firms
in the client electronics space are now transferring into the automotive room and
developing patent portfolios on different technologies applied in vehicles and vehicles.
IP litigation in consumer electronics might, therefore, bleed into the automotive

Historically, patent
litigation has elevated following periods of intensive technological innovation, and
could be perceived as a marker for competitive innovation.

Some of the earliest
ground-breaking technologies were satisfied with high-profile IP litigation. For
case in point, the commercially practical electrical lightbulb was litigated concerning
Edison and Westinghouse in a bid to garner the emerging electric gentle field
and to figure out not just industry shares, but whether or not the nation would undertake
alternating recent or immediate current technologies.

flight also saw an IP war concerning the Wright Brothers and Glenn Curtiss in the
budding aviation industry. The rise of smartphones led to significant litigation in
the smartphone wars.

Supplied the probable
of autonomous motor vehicles, AI integration, and other rapidly expanding automotive
systems, history implies that enhanced litigation may perhaps be on the horizon.

While automotive
sector players may perhaps not want to relive the smartphone wars in competitor
suits, long term litigation challenges may not arrive from regular automotive

As an alternative, they may perhaps
start off in non-automotive fields, including AI, SEPs related to 5G, and
electrical infrastructure.

RPX just lately
revealed a analyze acquiring a 182% rise in automotive patent litigations submitted by
non-practising entities (NPEs) between Q3 2020 and Q3 2021.

While lots of other
industries also observed rises in NPE litigation, the increase in automotive was the
major of any sector analyzed in the research.

This increase correlates
with a standard uptick in litigations considering the fact that 2018, but it is really worth noting that
the interval among 2010 and 2015 also marked the superior issue in litigations
submitted towards automotive entities, according to LegalMetric facts.

Govt gears

Whilst patent
litigation is pushed by several components in just the industry, external things, these
as governmental decisions, may perhaps shape the market and the progress of

For example,
California lately established a purpose to have all light-weight-responsibility autonomous motor vehicle sales
be zero-emission motor vehicles by 2030, and all personalized automotive income be
electrical autos (EVs) by 2035.

Various international locations and
governments exterior of the US have also established or proposed objectives for increasing
electric powered motor vehicle product sales and setting requirements for autonomous car basic safety

These kinds of directives, if
held to, may well direct innovation, like patent filings and litigations.

They also require
upcoming investments in infrastructure and could end result in a greater demand for specified
styles of automobiles in the industry.

As such, EV charging
infrastructure, fuel mobile know-how, and EV technological know-how – now near the
forefront of patent filings – may possibly locate alone as an emerging place of litigation
as businesses devote in these technologies to meet up with governmental and regulatory

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

As the quantity of and
have to have for electric powered charging stations maximize, the ability grid must bear the
supplemental load, possibly crossing above into grid infrastructure patents.

A 2020 California
Independent Method Operator report noted that enhanced utility usage from significant
temperatures, resource adequacy, and preparing procedures have been probable
contributors of rolling blackouts.

Investments in
electric motor vehicle technologies may well, hence, contact not only on the technological innovation of
the charging stations them selves, but also the higher infrastructure
supporting individuals systems.

Structure dilemmas 

Design patents have
become a strategically crucial IP asset for auto makers to, amid other
points, avoid counterfeit sections and offer high-quality command in excess of the structure
and physical appearance of their merchandise, when utility patents or trade dress
assertions may well not be feasible.

Structure patents allow for
automakers to shield non-practical factors of factors and to provide fit
in opposition to infringers who make, market, or supply to market a product utilizing a protected
design and style.

Design patent
litigation relating to vehicle components has received elevated interest in the
courts in the course of the earlier couple several years.

In two latest views, the Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit held that style and design patents may secure styles for alternative vehicle components – see Ford v New Planet Worldwide from 2020 and Automotive Human body Areas Association v Ford from 2019. 

This kind of affirmation
could serve to bolster safety for makers and pave the way for
feasible enforcement against counterfeiters and knock-off items.

Design patents could be
a usually defensive or protecting spot at this time, but the the latest appeals
court docket choices could reinforce automotive manufacturers’ self-assurance in the
great importance of layout patents in protecting their brand names and consumer

Notably, a person of the
most watched patent litigations in current background concerned structure patent
assertions from Apple versus Samsung covering the design and style of graphical person

As automotive
organizations continue on to integrate systems and improve consumer ordeals, several
of which are driven by graphical consumer interfaces, such as infotainment
systems and the substitute of common, analog gauges with enhanced electronic
shows, style and design patent safety may perhaps additional differentiate and present
protection for automotive manufacturers hunting to offer unique and
identifiable consumer experiences to shoppers.

As time goes on in the speedy-evolving automotive marketplace,
advanced automotive technologies will carry on to affect not only patent
filings but also the potential for IP litigation.

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

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