At one point the world’s most valuable start-up, Uber has made a concerted drive – especially in the last two years – to expand its patent portfolio as it eyes a 2019 target for going public. Against this backdrop, as well as news of its recent settlement with Waymo, IAM provides an exclusive analysis of the ride-sharing company’s patent position, its brand and the most salient IP-related storylines in recent years.

Patent portfolio breakdown

Uber’s collection of patents is still relatively small, numbering in the hundreds rather than thousands of grants - but it continues to rapidly build up. According to data from IP data and analytics platform, ktMINE, below is a breakdown of the company’s portfolio as of 19th February, by number of granted patents and top five patent classifications.

Commenting on the portfolio for IAM, Martin Bijman of patent services and technology intelligence firm TechInsightsstates: “Uber’s US patents encompass a diversity of transportation network technologies, with a core of transport service, which is surrounded by capabilities in call interaction, guided routes, geo search, rideshare, and a large investment in autonomous technologies including sensing such as LIDAR. Early litigation regarding Uber has focused on its core technologies and also the autonomous technologies.”

As to how Uber has built out its patent position, it has made significant gains from purchasing and acquiring assets. Bijman adds: “Uber has been very active acquiring innovations, reassigning 173 patents with a range of priority dates in technologies throughout their portfolio, yet only a modest amount in the core and autonomous technology areas.” A list of the ride-sharing company’s major recent deals can be seen below.


Number of assets

Execution date



January 13th 2017

Apparate International


October 26th 2016



June 16th 2017



January 12th 2017

HP Enterprise


June 9th 2017



January 19th 2018



December 14th 2017



May 16th 2017

Source: ktMINE/USPTO assignment database

Uber has also been busy on the application front. Murari Venkataraman of IP intelligence and analytics platform Relecura, states: “Its push to expand its portfolio since 2015 is borne out by an uptick in both its patent publishing trends and acquisition activity.”

Relecura’s 2018 Uber portfolio report highlights that Uber’s patent application numbers remained in the single and double digits until 2016. As seen in the chart below, the company’s push to strengthen its patent position since 2014 is apparent.

Number of patent applications – 2009-2017:

The report also assigns a ‘patent star rating’ to individual patents and the portfolio overall. The rating is a composite metric that takes into account various technical and non-technical factors contributing to the quality of the patents. Examples of factors considered include the number of forward citations, number of backward citations, number of years for expiry, prosecution time, number of claims, length of the specification, number of family members, and geographical coverage. Commenting on Uber’s average rating of 2.49 out of 5, Venkataraman notes: “Typically patents which score 3 or greater are deemed ‘high quality’.” The number of individual Uber patents by rating can be seen below.

Source: Relecura

As to plans for further expansion in the future, Kurt Brasch, the firm’s head of patent transactions, told IAM: “The key is to identify and strategise all potential IP issues: protecting against industry threats and NPEs; patenting vs trade secrets; internal vs external IP prosecution and management; software and tools needed; where to patent; and protecting our brands worldwide. You need to consider litigation potential, strategies to defend in court, and how to select outside counsel.” He went on to say: “Our goal is not quantity - we are focused on having the strongest quality portfolio in the industry, so we need a strong yield from our filings.”

Brand value

As seen below, reflecting the confidence others put in its brand, Uber’s brand value has steadily climbed in recent years. This is in spite of the plethora of scandals the company has found itself caught up in, especially during 2017, which eventually led to the resignation of its CEO. In 2016, its brand was worth almost exactly $11 billion; only two years later, this figure had leapt by over 50% and its brand is today valued at $16.6 billion. It now features among the 100 most valuable brands in the world in Brand Finance’s Global 500 2018. That said, its overall position dropped compared to the 2017 list – from 89th to 90th.

Key storylines in the last five years


2013 was a relatively quiet year for Uber. While it continued to expand aggressively into new locations and its bookings and revenues both increased rapidly, major announcements and developments remained on the backburner, especially from an IP perspective.

The exception came in the middle of the year, when the firm raised a new round of financing at a $3.5 billion valuation. It generated $361 million – notably, $258 million of that came from Google Ventures (the search giant’s venture capital arm), making it Google Ventures’ largest deal ever.


This was a year full of scandals and mishaps for Uber: complaints about peak time surge pricing; allegations of sexual assault; new rules on the number of ride-sharing vehicles allowed on the road; and legal challenges from authorities are just a small handful of the problems that flew in its direction.

It was also significant for being when the company made its intentions of entering the autonomous vehicle market clear – a day after Google unveiled its own driverless car prototype in late May.

In December, a new $1.2 billion funding round at a $40 billion valuation was confirmed, pushing the total raised to over $1.5 billion in a short space of time.


Uber eventually began to make its move into the driverless vehicle market. In February it opened a research centre to explore new mapping and driving technology, with plans to also set up Advanced Technologies Center in partnership with Carnegie Mellon University in Pittsburgh.

In the same month, ex-Google employee Eric Schulman – who had held a number of IP positions at the tech giant including director of licensing, managing patent counsel and director of patents – headed over to Uber as its new head of IP. Schulman would leave just over a year later and eventually enter private practice.

In June, Uber picked up a number of assets from Microsoft, including intellectual property, a data centre and around 100 engineers, as part of a broader business deal.


In February, a month before Eric Schulman’s departure, Michael Meehan joined Uber as director of intellectual property. Meehan was another former Google employee, having previously served as a patent attorney for the search giant.

Saudi Arabia’s sovereign wealth fund invested $3.5 billion in Uber in June, making it the largest single investment made into the company and expanding the firm’s reserves to over $11 billion.

Two months later, Didi Chuxing, a Chinese ride-sharing service that would go on to become one of Uber’s largest competitors in this market, bought out Uber’s China business. At the time, Didi was valued at $28 billion, while Uber China was valued at approximately $7 billion.

In the same month, Uber made a big purchase of its own: it acquired self-driving trucks start-up Otto for $680 million while striking a deal with Volvo to develop a series of fully autonomous vehicles.

The firm made a major hire in the form of Kurt Brasch (yet another former patent executive at Google) as its senior manager of patents in September. At this point, Uber’s patent cupboard was still relatively bare – so, as somebody focused on IP deal-making, Brasch’s appointment served as a strong indication that the company was ready to begin bulking up its portfolio in preparation for an initial public offering (IPO).

The following month, Uber picked up 47 assets from Apparate International, while it acquired more rights still in December when it picked up a package of nine grants from PARC.


The first half of 2017 was, to say the least, a difficult period for Uber. It was plagued by a seemingly never-ending list of scandals, from sexual harassment claims to a viral campaign that saw hundreds of thousands of users reportedly delete their accounts in protest of Uber’s attempt to capitalise on a New York taxi protest.

But on the patent purchasing front, it continued to pick up pace: at the start of the year, it received over 100 assets from AT&T in two separate deals.

Arguably the biggest story of the year arrived in February, when Waymo, the self-driving business of Google’s parent company Alphabet, filed suit against Uber alleging trade secret theft and patent infringement. Waymo claimed that one of its former executives, Anthony Levandowski, stole thousands of files from the company to form Otto – the company which Uber had gone on to purchase for almost $700 million. This dispute would settle almost exactly a year later.

In March, John Mulgrew joined the ride-sharing firm as its global head of IP. The following month, Uber launched a patent buying programme (known as UP3), which was led by Brasch, in a bid to aggressively expand its portfolio. To further demonstrate just how keen the company was to strengthen its portfolio on the secondary market, it also joined AST as a member in May prior to the launch of Industry Patent Purchase Program (IP3) 2017.

The company saw two notable departures in June. Following the aforementioned string of scandals, co-founder and then chief executive Travis Kalanick resigned. At the same time, Michael Meehan departed from the company.

That summer, AST transferred over 50 assets to Uber, as the company continued to round out its portfolio. The tech firm received 24 assets from Hewlett Packard Enterprise as well.

In August, Uber lined up a number of potential investors, including SoftBank Group, which had long been rumoured to have been interested in the firm. Less than two weeks later, Expedia’s former CEO, Dara Khosrowshahi, would move to Uber to lead the company. A short while after, in November, Khosrowshahi set 2019 as the official target for Uber’s IPO.

Uber agreed to the long-anticipated deal with SoftBank at the end of the year, selling a 15% stake. SoftBank also invested $1.25 billion in new capital.


This year kicked off with Uber picking up 17 assets from Microsoft, right after another deal with AT&T at the close of 2017 which saw the firm receive 13 assets from the telecoms company. At the same time, rival Didi Chuxing also continued to significantly bulk up its portfolio.

The deal with the group of investors led by SoftBank also closed in early 2018, officially making the Japanese conglomerate the largest stakeholder in Uber.

Most recently, the high-profile dispute between Uber and Waymo came to a sudden end, as the former agreed to pay $245 million to settle the allegations of trade secret theft. As we previously discussed on this blog, the outcome could be viewed as a win-win and may open up a new chapter in Uber’s and Alphabet’s long and complicated relationship.

Leading individuals



Dara Khosrowshahi

Chief Executive Officer

John Mulgew

Head of IP

Kurt Brasch

Head of Patent Transactions

Rakesh Michael

Senior Counsel, Intellectual Property

Christopher Storm

Senior Counsel, Intellectual Property