Will Companies Exploit Their Autonomous Vehicle Patents in Other Technology Areas?

A recent report has been published, which looks into the intellectual property (IP) trends behind the autonomous robotics sector. The report claims that a large proportion of patents and patent applications relating to autonomous robotics specify autonomous vehicles as a practical application. Of the 27148 patents and applications analysed in the report, 15558 of them specified autonomous vehicles as a practical application, whilst 3566 specified practical applications in industry.

This report, and the potential cross-over between different areas within the autonomous robotics sector, raises an interesting question: will companies that obtain patents intended for autonomous vehicle products exploit these patents in other sectors?

For example, if a company obtains a patent relating to a navigation technique intended for use in a self-driving car product, most likely that company will exploit this patent within the area of self-driving cars. However, the company may be able to exploit the patent within other technology areas. For instance, the navigation technique may be useful for industrial robots as well as self-driving cars.

Typically a patent can be exploited commercially by licencing the technology or, alternatively, by restricting others from using the technology in order to protect market share. A licencing agreement may allow both companies to benefit from the technology, whilst restricting others’ use may only benefit the patent holder.

It will be interesting to see whether patent holders in the autonomous vehicle sector will allow their technology to be used in other sectors, or whether they will be more inclined to litigate any infringements that arise.

In any case, the possible cross-over between technology areas highlights the importance of drafting patent applications so that wider applications for inventions can be covered. In this way, patent holders may be able to extract more value from their IP.

Photo credit Forgemind ArchiMedia under licence https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

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