Many Automakers Rely On Patents, But That Doesn't Mean All Patents Are Good For Automakers

from the patent-quality-week dept

This post is one of a series of posts we're running this week in support of Patent Quality Week, exploring how better patent quality is key to stopping efforts that hinder innovation.

The auto industry is experiencing a transformative period of innovation that will make future mobility even cleaner, safer, and smarter. Auto companies are investing billions of dollars in electrification and other fuel-saving technologies, and by 2023 the industry will have invested $250 billion toward this goal. Advanced driving assist features – such as automatic emergency braking – are already helping to improve safety. And automated vehicles can create the next big advancement in vehicle safety and expand mobility for the elderly and those with disabilities.

The auto industry is an innovation leader. As major inventors, auto companies own hundreds of thousands of patents and rely on those patents to protect their innovations, which incentivizes more developing and production of cutting-edge automotive technologies. That is why auto companies have a strong interest in ensuring that the patents are high quality and receive robust legal protections.

At the same time, auto companies are also increasingly subject to attacks from bad actors who allege patent infringement using low-quality patents that should never have been issued in the first place. In the end, courts find many of these patents invalid, but patent litigation raises costs for consumers and everyone else and is time consuming. The truth is that every moment and dollar auto companies waste on these lawsuits would have been better spent on making cleaner, safer, and smarter cars. Focused and targeted efforts to increase the overall quality of issued patents would reduce the number of low-quality patents that can be used to hamper innovation. High quality patents are a key contributor to our ability to achieve our important environmental and safety goals.

To help achieve this goal, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) should institute policies to improve patent quality during the patent examination phase. For example, important reforms can be made to shift the focus at the USPTO to maximizing patent quality rather than maximizing the rate of patents issued. Other changes, such as increasing the number of hours an examiner spends reviewing a patent application, may also be necessary to increase patent quality. Not all of these changes may be possible for the USPTO to accomplish on its own, so it will be important for the next USPTO director to work with Congress to identify those reforms necessary to improve patent quality.

It is also critical that the inter partes review (IPR) process, which was created by the bipartisan America Invents Act in 2011, is protected and preserved. The IPR process has worked as Congress intended and provides a fair, efficient, and cost-effective mechanism to evaluate and reassess whether an issued patent is valid. Abolishing or otherwise limiting access to IPR would almost certainly result in increasing litigation costs, slower adjudication, and more frivolous lawsuits. That would stifle innovation and dynamism in the auto industry, harming auto manufacturers and consumers alike.

The auto industry relies heavily on the patent system, which is vital in promoting innovation and economic growth. Promoting and protecting high quality patents, while weeding out abuse in the system, will help the auto industry continue to use leading-edge innovation, constant creativity, and investments in research and development to bring the next generation of breakthrough automotive and mobility technologies to the U.S. market. Patent Quality Week brings important awareness to the value of quality and balance in patent policy. Conversations around quality and balance in patent policy are necessary in protecting innovation in the automotive industry and continuing economic growth.

John Bozzella is the president and CEO of the Alliance for Automotive Innovation, which represents 99 percent of the automotive industry.

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Filed Under: automotive, inter partes review, ipr, patent quality, patent quality week, patents, uspto


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  • identicon
    Bobvious, 21 Jul 2021 @ 5:29am

    expand mobility

    "And automated vehicles can create the next big advancement in vehicle safety and expand mobility for the elderly and those with disabilities. "

    You only need a temporary loss in mobility for this to be useful. An average usually fully mobile person could easily sprain or break a limb, or become unwell whilst away from home, and not be able to properly control a vehicle. Having a degree of automation to allow them some semblance of vehicular mobility would be a great help.

    It's kinda like the image of the horse carrying the drunk or exhausted rider back home.

    And I'm not suggesting that automation should be a panacea for people who want to get drunk and get on the road, but consider someone who lives very remotely and a long way from medical help but needs to get to a hospital or doctor. Driver assist could be useful here.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    dave mitchell, 21 Jul 2021 @ 7:15am

    Tesla Patents

    It's worth noting that Tesl placed all its patents in the public domain back in 2014 - see https://www.tesla.com/en_GB/blog/all-our-patent-are-belong-you

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

    • icon
      James Burkhardt (profile), 21 Jul 2021 @ 8:12am

      Re: Tesla Patents

      Its probably also notable to the Musk Fanboys that think Techdirt just hates Musk given his recent issues with the 1st amendment and admitting Starlink isn't a magical panacea that Techdirt covered this, when it happened giving lots of positive coverage to the decision, as well as covering when Musk clarified he really meant it by removing the weasel words from his original announcement. Its also notable that Techdirt called out Ford for pretending it was following Tesla's Lead while giving credit to Toyota for joining Tesla

      reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Annonymouse, 21 Jul 2021 @ 9:31am

    I was seriously reading this article until I hit ^the auto industry is an innovation leader^ and the writer was serious.

    Lap belts in the back seat had to be legislated
    Shoulder belts had to be legislated
    Baby seat mounting had to be legislated
    Crash survivability had to be legislated
    Fuel economy had to be legislated

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]

  • identicon
    Rich, 21 Jul 2021 @ 10:58am

    Innovation

    Sure, lots of great innovations, but you will be changing your tune P.D.Q. when your new and innovative self-driving car sits there with its front wheels crossed, shaking its front bumper at you, and refusing to budge because you're late with the software licensing payments. All of that reclaimed time previously wasted in rush hour traffic that these innovations promise will seem bitter sweet as you use some of it to hastily hammer out a retraction while your pissed-off self-driving car decides to self-drive you straight to the nearest ATM.

    reply to this | link to this | view in chronology ]


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