Car Patents: Everything You Need to Know
Car patents can be tricky, but they make a difference when marketing new designs. 4 min read
Car patents can be tricky, but they make a difference when marketing new designs. Technology and designs used for cars have been consistently developing since cars first came about. The trend now is developing technology and features for autonomous cars. All that new technology requires patents.
Ford Patents Retractable Table for Autonomous Cars
In September 2017, Ford patented a retractable table for autonomous cars following the logic that self-driving car interiors could be made to resemble kitchens or offices, allowing you to work while your car drives itself. The front seats would rotate to face the rear of the car while a table extends from the floor. Try not to put anything heavy or sharp on the table, however, as Ford plans to put an air bag right on top.
These patents don't necessarily mean that Ford ever plans to market this idea. The company submits patents for innovations their designers come up with all the time as a normal part of business. Some of these patents include designs for a removable wheel and pedals along with a projector screen, allowing one to watch movies inside the car. Legacy car makers like Ford have been rushing to patent several self-driving car ideas to stay competitive with Silicon Valley tech experts.
Tesla Releases Electric Car Patents to Public
Patents are a great way to protect your intellectual property, but sometimes it's better for business to release patents to the public. That's exactly what Elon Musk of Tesla did with electric car charging stations. This makes it easier for competitors to develop charging stations of their own, which will decrease demand for traditional gasoline-powered vehicles. Tesla stands to benefit from that decreased demand.
Tesla is taking it a step further, however, and releasing all patents for Tesla Motors. The electric vehicle market is in a good position to explode, since manufacturers don't have to worry about Tesla suing them over designs. There are a few stipulations, however, as developers who make use of supercharger technology have to offer their customers free access after their initial purchases
In addition, Tesla is looking to open a factory to manufacture batteries for electric vehicles. These batteries would adapt to multiple electric car designs, which doesn't limit them to Tesla models. Other EV manufacturers can make use of these batteries, which will expedite the development of greater EV technology.
While patents were originally used by Musk to protect Tesla's intellectual property, he has since realized that those same patents were constricting an industry he had hoped to expand. The rise of electric vehicles must be driven by market competition, so it can appeal to as many consumers as possible.
Patent Wars on Self-Driving Cars
The self-driving car is no longer a thing of science fiction. The future of travel could be as close as five years away with at least 13 major manufacturers claiming to bring autonomous vehicles to a dealership near you. Technology companies like Google and Intel also intend to help this industry grow with tech specifically designed for autonomous vehicles.
While these innovations could make driving safer than ever before, since human error is no longer an issue, it also stands to be a great business opportunity for all those involved. With that opportunity comes a wave of patents protecting new innovations designed to increase one's experience in an autonomous vehicle. One of the fears regarding what could become a trillion dollar industry over the next several decades is that courts will get bogged down with patent legislation. The same thing has already happened between Apple and Samsung, which is why smartphone technology over the past decade is largely unchanged.
Some companies like Tesla and Volvo are striving to cooperate to expand the technology in this market, but other companies are often caught in patent lawsuits, like Google did with Uber in autonomous vehicle experiments. Innovation is built on the achievements of the past, so eventually everyone will be in violation of a patent. If that becomes a problem, no one will truly be able to build the best versions of their products.
Patent Disputes: Conclusion
Patent disputes can very well slow down innovation to a crawl. If companies get too caught up in suing each other over autonomous car patents, the true potential of this exciting industry will never be reached, as innovation necessitates building off designs already in place (which are likely patented). For an autonomous solution to driving that significantly reduces accidents, companies will need to learn to work together.
If you need help with determining car patents, you can post your legal needs on UpCounsel's marketplace. UpCounsel accepts only the top five percent of lawyers to its site. Lawyers on UpCounsel come from law schools such as Harvard Law and Yale Law and average 14 years of legal experience, including work with or on behalf of companies like Google, Menlo Ventures, and Airbnb.