Have you ever dreamt of having the Ford Anglia car (aka the Flying car) from the Harry Potter Series or the talking cars from the Disney movie? Seems like a fantasy right, but days are not far when these vehicles will actually be a part of our life. With the fast-changing of technology, many innovative techniques have been witnessed by the automotive sector. One such successful tale of success runs with tesla, who has managed to successfully patent their car functions (attach the link of insta post of tesla here). The question of the protection of these technologies can be answered through IPR. 

In this article, we have adopted a different approach to analysis. We are going to state the facts to prove the importance of the IP sector in the automobile industry or, in other words, how you can manage IP in the automobile sector.

Before jumping into the IP rights analysis of what has to be used, we need to understand why IPR is important in the Automobile sector:

  1. Designing a new vehicle is a costly and time-consuming business. If a design or important elements of a design are appropriated by other manufacturers, your investment (and any competitive edge it brought) will be lost.
  2. Counterfeiting of auto components, indeed, is intellectual property theft as it can infringe any, or all, of the main intellectual property rights, namely trademarks, patents, designs, and copyrights. It leads to a loss of revenue to the OE manufacturer.
  3. The framework provides a holistic solution to safeguarding the financial as well as the intellectual aspect of a product. But administrative loopholes such as red tape, complex patent filing, and costly litigations could end up tarnishing a brand’s image as well as a result in the loss of revenue.
  4. Intellectual Property Rights (IPR) can today be the tool of all manufacturers to ensure that innovation is in place, and a strong legal framework can check the loss of propriety technology in favor of sub-standard copies.
  5. With many vehicles now coming to market featuring some level of automation and fully autonomous cars being tested on public roads, we need a new way to manage IP rights and solve the fundamental challenges facing autonomous vehicles and the modern automotive industry as a whole. 
  6. As the automotive industry develops and more innovations are introduced, there will be a greater and natural need to acquire and enforce patents by manufacturers. 

Need for managing IP Rights in Automotive Sector:

Intellectual property is among the most important and valuable business assets that a company owns. As innovation and technology are evolving at an accelerated pace, competition among automotive manufacturers and suppliers is as fierce as ever, intellectual property (and the protection and enforcement of it) will be more important than ever. The automotive industry had the third-highest amount of patents and patent applications filed during 2009 - 2014. During this period, the automotive industry experienced the third-highest percentage increase in patent filings across the top 12 technology sectors, following only computing and telecoms.

The automotive industry is separated into various categories, including safety and security, with all major vehicle manufacturers having joined the "revolution in safety." Automobiles are more than just transportation; they are the most advanced technology owned by consumers.

Historically, motor vehicle manufacturers and suppliers focused on vehicle safety more in terms of engineering technology features such as airbags and seatbelts. Today, vehicle safety has evolved to high-tech cameras, sensors, driver assistance devices, and other technology that mitigate automobile accidents. Modern-day technology allows for vehicles to gauge their surroundings, alert drivers of potential threats, and are equipped with features like auto-braking, crash avoidance, and lane departure warnings.  Just think of the modern-day motor vehicle as a computer on wheels, and intellectual property will continue to play a major role in fostering the innovation evolution.

Managing the IP Rights of the Automobile Industry:

Every IP rights are different and have its own functionality. The industry tycoons are racing each day to mark their presence in the industry. With covid-19 relaxation favoring the automobile industry and the budget 2021 keeping the automotive sector on the top priority list, there is an urgent need to understand how can you manage your IP rights amidst the heavy competition? Of all the IP rights, we shall focus on the three major rights of the Automotive industry- Patents, trademarks, and design. We shall also discuss in brief about role of copyrights and trade secrets as well.

Patents and Automobile sector

The automobile sector has witnessed a tsunami of patent filings both in Indian and Foreign Jurisdiction. The top IP tycoons of the automotive sector are Tata Motors, M and M Limited, TVS Motors, BMW, Ford, etc. Integration of computer applications to the automobile sector has increased the impact of IP on this sector. This has been the major reason for the upward trend in Patent Filing. 

Analyzing the lawsuits filed- Earlier, the disputes were among the players of the sector or their suppliers. Interestingly, after merging computers into automobiles, the nature of lawsuit filing has witnessed a paradigm shift. Increasing cases of licensing have been aboon for the automobile sector, which will keep growing and will make the sector turn into the market sector.

A new trend has been waving in the market to patent those technologies which are mere improvement of the existing ones. The automotive sector focuses more on the utility model, which is why we have seen more foreign applications than Indian applications. In India, the patent of a product requires three main essentials – novelty, originality, and industrial application. However, a close reading of section 3 indicates that mere changes in existing products cannot be a patentable subject matter. Hence, Indian companies have to resort to these foreign applications.

The focus of automobiles from a safety perspective to safety plus luxury perception has brought a considerable change in the system. Improvements, innovations, designs, and various technological improvements have to be seen in the last 10 years. It is highly required for the IP Tycoons to understand the need to rethink and re-arrange their Patent policies to have a stand in the market.

The modern automobile is the outcome of 100,000 patents and the dedication of millions of inventors. Indian Automotive Industries have filed many patent applications and using the same technologies in their product line to overwhelm the market competition.

Trademark and Automobile sector:

It is pertinent to quote a famous line by David Ogilvy before we start this discussion. He says “Within every brand is a product, but not every product is a brand.”  The importance of branding in this sector is always considered of utmost importance. The world is all about branding and promotions. If your brand is well-known in the market, it adds to your asset and helps you increase the sales of your products. I would personally prefer busing those vehicles if they are known to all, and by that, I clearly mean that I would invest in branded products if it requires a huge investment. (PS: Not a brand freak but just a conscious investor). Brand value is determined if a consumer is willing to pay more for one brand over the other, and it is not always the product that makes up the brand value.

Statistically speaking, as of 2019the Indian automobile market holds the position of being the fourth largest in the world, with the scale of production increasing 9.5 percent every year. This calls for confusion as to what to choose and what to reject. At this point, the brand value and image give an upper hand in choosing the product. 

Many leading companies invest more time designing their logo, name, design, and branding manual of their products. One such classic example was the change of name from Toyoda to Toyota to make the name and brand catcher and more visible. Lots of thoughts have been put up in designing the logo, and that does not stop there. These companies have also designed fluid marks based on the current situation.


Here are a few logos that have ruled the automotive market

Designs and Automobile sector:

The aesthetic look of an automobile is the ultimate commercial feature of any automobile company. Mercedes, GM, Honda, Toyota, Tata, Bajaj, and many more have already established their own brands with unique design impressions on a customer. They are changing their product lines both in functional and aesthetic terms in accordance with the changing consumer tastes.

There have been few automotive designs that have made their entry into the market in the cinematography sector:

  • Herbie - The VW Beetle. 
  • Back to the Future - The Delorean 
  • James Bond 007 - The Aston Martin. 
  • The dukes of Hazzard - 1969 Dodge Charger. 
  • Beverly Hills Cop - The Red Ferrari.
  • Knight Rider - The Pontiac Firebird Trans Am 
  • Gone in 60 Seconds - The 1967 Shelby GT 500 Mustang. 
  • The Herbie Series - 1963 Volkswagen Beatles 
  • Mr. Bean - The good old mini
  • The Fast and furious – Mitsubishi Eclipse, Mazda Rx8, Toyota
  • Thunderbirds - The Pink Rolls Royce
  • Transporter- Audi 8

Better late than never- Manage your rights now.

Indian Auto Industry is now pacing up with the impact of Intellectual Property [IP] in their business field. But, they are still way behind in comparison to the US and European Auto Industry. Growing with IP should be a new mantra for Indian Auto Industry. 

The IP should be incorporated in an industry with a long-term vision. Identifying, recording, and registering of own IP should be on the company plan. 

Indian Auto industry has to realize that an intellectual property right is the essence of the present knowledge economy and would be able to hold the industry against a strong competitive market force. That would ultimately lead to a new future for Indian business and would participate in making the economy stronger by enriching it with new technologies.

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