Automakers are the latest victims of “patent-trolling” image

Ford Motor, one of the largest global automakers, was for example – between 2012 and 2014 – sued for at least a dozen times for issues that involve patent infringement – though the cases were not brought by rival companies or upset suppliers.

Instead, they were brought by companies now popularly called “patent trolls” – these are ghost-like firms that call themselves “patent assertion companies”. They make billions of dollars by acquiring patents and instead of selling their own products, they target another big company and build patent cases. Through the d misuse of intellectual property they have so far made billions of dollars from licensing fees and court penalties. Their prominence arose since the technology age entered the “dot com” era in the 1990s, but only recently started targeting the automotive industry. For the patent case builders, suing the companies is like renting a lot and asking the leaser to pay its dues. But for auto companies, the patent lawsuits are extremely frustrating.

Patent assertion firms have moved up the ranks in recent years – from 17 lawsuits against carmakers and suppliers in 2009 to no less than 107 cases in 2014, shows data collected by San Francisco-based RPX Corp., a firm that specializes in assisting corporations against the “trolls”. “We take the protection and licensing of patented innovations very seriously,” comments a Ford spokesperson. So, they legally partnered with RPX, which has purchased patents worth almost $1 billion and now allows the automaker to access them for around $1.5 million annually.

Via Automotive News Europe