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12.10.17

Unlike the Mobile Domain, When it Comes to Cars Patent Lawsuits Remain Rare

Posted in America, Patents at 2:51 pm by Dr. Roy Schestowitz

Yesterday: Phones/Mobility (Trillion-Dollar Market) May Have Become Infested and Encumbered by Aggressive, Dying Companies

Car reflexes

Summary: An optimistic note regarding the relatively low-temperature legal landscape surrounding advanced automobiles, even though patents are being amassed on software in that domain

THE overabundance of patents does not discourage stagnation. It certainly does, however, hinder innovation in fast-moving fields such as software (programming/coding). One does not require a factory to write/develop and copy/distribute code. None of this is extraordinary a claim; it’s practically taken for granted by people who actually write code. They have somewhere between little to no interest in patents. They never really asked for patent protection; knowing that their software gets copyrighted is sufficient peace of mind.

It’s no secret that patents discourage passage of simple computer code. There’s a lot of ‘red tape’ associated with code that’s claimed to be patented, e.g. Microsoft’s FAT and exFAT. This, in turn, can discourage interoperability and standardisation. Again, there’s nothing controversial in these claims. It’s obvious and it’s trivial to explain.

“There’s a lot of ‘red tape’ associated with code that’s claimed to be patented, e.g. Microsoft’s FAT and exFAT. This, in turn, can discourage interoperability and standardisation.”3 days ago Bloomberg wrote an article titled “Carmakers Want Silicon Valley’s Tech Without Its Patent Wars”. This article was soon reposted with a different headline by the Financial Post, then by the Standard-Examiner, The Record, and Toronto Star. They just modified the headline and left the body in tact. The thesis of all this is that sharing works better than not sharing. Tesla already did the right thing several years ago.

To quote the article:

As automakers turn their vehicles into app-laden computers on wheels, there’s one habit they don’t want to acquire from Silicon Valley: fighting over patents in court.

Manufacturers from BMW AG to Hyundai Motor Co. to Ford Motor Co. are trying to learn from the smartphone wars, which cost technology companies hundreds of millions of dollars in legal fees, as they prepare to revolutionize their vehicles.

“No sane automaker wants to repeat these wars, where the lawyers were the only winners,” said William Coughlin, chief executive officer of Ford Global Technologies, Ford’s intellectual property arm.

[...]

Both Toyota Motor Corp. and Ford were among the top 21 recipients of U.S. patents last year, with 1,540 and 1,530, putting them in company with Apple Inc., Qualcomm Inc., and Alphabet Inc.’s Google, according to figures compiled by the Intellectual Property Owners Association.

What this article fails to mention is that many of these patents are software patents and thus toothless, more so after Alice. We already wrote a number of articles about such patents, which impact a domain I developed software in half a decade ago.

“Let’s hope that this domain of software, where Free/Open Source software already gains niche, will remain mostly void of patent litigation.”There was another article related to this a few days ago and it said that “Automakers have ramped up their patent applications as they compete to roll out crash avoidance systems, on-board Wi-Fi and cars that can drive themselves.”

There have been very few lawsuits in this area however. Except perhaps Google's as well as some patent licensing deals (not the same as lawsuits and potentially quite amicable too).

Let’s hope that this domain of software, where Free/Open Source software already gains a niche, will remain mostly void of patent litigation.

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