Patents

This is old news, but six months ago Reuters reported that, ironically, foreign firms are outpacing U.S. firms when it comes to autonomous vehicle patents.

Toyota is, far and away, the global leader in the number of self-driving car patents, the report found. Toyota is followed by Germany’s Robert Bosch GmbH, Japan’s Denso Corp, Korea’s Hyundai Motor Co and General Motors Co. The tech company with the most autonomous-driving patents, Alphabet Inc’s Google, ranks 26th on the list.

The correlation between patents and autonomous vehicle progress seems low, though.

The raw number of patents does not necessarily equate to leadership in developing self-driving cars, [Reuters analyst Tony Trippe] said. Non-U.S. companies tend to be more aggressive in filing patent applications than American companies. The quality of patents is also important, since not all are created equal.

This also illustrates a divide between Silicon Valley and traditional automakers.

Silicon Valley tends be more skeptical of the value of patents, seeing them mostly as a defense against patent trolls. Traditional automotive companies rely more heavily on the intellectual property protection, and resultant competitive advantage, provided by patents.

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