The rapid adoption of new technologies by the auto industry and the new players that provide them is going to have an impact on the world’s roads. It’s also bringing an increased focus on exploiting and protecting intellectual property.
In the past, the OEMs and suppliers have always played nice, while major West Coast technology companies not traditionally associated with the auto industry, such as Google, Apple, and Microsoft, are moving into the automotive space with extensive automotive patent portfolios and a more aggressive attitude about protecting and exploiting their intellectual property. In addition, the patent trolls will continue their efforts to cobble together portfolios in order to shake down the OEMs and others for license fees.
Reviewing the high-technology patent litigation in the automobile industry that occurred between 2012 and 2017 helps to crystalize the full picture of IP litigation now and moving forward. The majority of patent litigation in the last 5 years has been troll cases, and the automotive sector is no exception. If anything, auto has seen trolls form rapidly, particularly in the EDTx, to exploit various high-tech aspects of cars. The major trolls have targeted OEMs. The high-tech patent cases between suppliers or competitors and the OEMs in the auto industry from 2012 to 2017 were much fewer and farther between, but more significant from the tech standpoint and were likely more aggressively litigated. In addition to the new players mentioned above getting into the game, many have formed partnerships with more traditional auto companies like Fiat Chrysler and Toyota. This all points to patent collisions as the new developments go from concept to reality.
The increased emphasis on and adoption of new technology in the auto industry, along with the entry of tech companies into the space will undoubtedly bring an increased focus on IP.