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Global Patent Portfolios of the Top 25 Well-Funded AV Companies

Obtaining patent protection on a global scale can be costly. As each country is a sovereign jurisdiction, they have their own Patent Office, requiring a patent application to be filed and examined in the respective Patent Office in order to receive patent protection in that jurisdiction. While the same patent application can be filed in multiple countries for the same invention, the Patent Office lifetime fees for obtaining patent protection for a single invention in the 50+ major countries combined can cost over $500,000! For example, the Patent Office fees for the 20-year lifespan of one patent asset can accumulate to around $8,000 for a small entity in the United States, and $17,500 in China. As such, it is simply not practical to indiscriminately pursue international patent protection in all major jurisdictions. So, which countries should you consider for international protection of your invention? 

The following table illustrates the global patent portfolios of the top 25 well-funded autonomous vehicle (AV) companies (according to CrunchBase, updated on May 9, 2020). The number of applications filed per country is listed below for each company based on publicly available databases. It should be noted that patent applications typically do not publish for 18 months after their filing date, so the number of patent assets listed here represents a snapshot of the number of patent assets owned by the company as of 18 months ago.

 

Rank based on CB Score

Companies

Year Founded

HQ

Office Locations

Applications Filed
per Country

Total Applications Filed

1

Brain Corp 

2009 

San Diego, California 

USA, The Netherlands, Japan 

US (240); EP (12); CN (11); CA (7); KR (7); JP (6); TW (2); SG (1); IN (1); WO (44)

331 

2

Waymo 

2009 

Mountain View, California

USA 

US (603); CN (132); KR (125); EP (115); JP (106); AU (53); CA (52); SG (37); IL (12); HK (5); MX (2); ES (1); DK (1); DE (1); WO (193)

1438

Otonomo 

2015 

Herzliya, Tel Aviv, Israel 

Israel, USA, Germany 

US (1); EP (1); WO (4)

6

Tesla 

2003 

Palo Alto, California 

USA, Netherlands, Germany, Australia, China, Hong Kong, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan 

US (693); EP (130); CN (104); JP (92); KR (35); CA (22); DE (21); HK (11); IN (4); AU (4); AT (3); GB (3); MX (3); TW (3); WO (146)

1274

Bolt Technology 

2013

Tallinn, Harjumaa, Estonia 

Click here 

-

-

Nexar 

2015 

Tel Aviv, Israel 

Israel

US (3); WO (2)

5

Mobileye, An Intel Company 

1999 

Jerusalem, Israel 

Israel, Cyprus 

US (255); EP (91); CN (49); KR (20); JP (19); CA (7); AU (7); IL (6); DE (5); IN (4); AT (4); BR (2); GB (2); SE (1); ES (1); WO (63)

536

Luminar 

2012 

Orlando, Florida 

USA 

US (120); EP (7); CN (7); JP (2); WO (14)

150

TuSimple 

2015 

San Diego, California 

USA, China 

CN (213); US (129); EP (3); AU (2); WO (52)

399

10 

Seegrid 

2003 

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 

USA 

US (21); EP (14); HK (7); JP (6); KR (5); CN (5); CA (5); ES (1); WO (13)

77

11 

Cruise 

2013 

San Francisco, California 

USA 

US (9)

9

12 

Argo AI 

2016 

Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania 

USA 

US (42); DE (3); GB (1)

46

13 

Cobalt 

2016 

San Mateo, California 

USA 

US (17); WO (2)

19

14 

Nauto 

2015 

Pal Alto, California 

USA, Ireland, Japan 

US (24); EP (6); JP (5); CN (1); BR (1); WO (13)

50

15 

Momenta 

2016 

Bejing, China 

China, Germany 

CN (75); US (3); WO (6)

84

16 

Embark Trucks 

2016 

San Francisco, California 

USA 

-

-

17 

Arrival 

2015 

London, England 

Germany, Netherlands, Israel, Russia, USA 

GB (37); CN (5); WO (6)

48

18 

AirMap 

2014 

Santa Monica, California 

USA, Germany, Switzerland, France, Singapore 

US (2); EP (1); KR (1); JP (1); CN (1); AU (1); WO (1)

8

19 

Quanergy Systems 

2012 

Sunnyvale, California 

USA, Canada, China, Germany, Japan, UK, UAE 

US (16); CN (4); KR (4); EP (4); JP (4); SG (4); TW (4); WO (8)

49

20 

Applied Intuition 

2017 

Sunnyvale, California 

USA, Germany, Japan 

-

-

21 

Xiaopeng Motors 

2014 

Guangzhou, Guangdong, China 

China, USA 

CN (1074); WO (20)

1094

22

PrecisionHawk 

2010 

Raleigh, North Carolina 

USA, Canada 

US (6); CA (3); WO (3)

12

23

Innoviz Technologies 

2016 

Tel Aviv, Israel 

Israel 

US (25); EP (3); CN (3); KR (1); WO (10)

42

24

Ike 

2018 

San Francisco, California 

USA 

-

-

25 

Wheels 

2018 

Los Angeles, California 

USA 

-

-

Among the top well-funded AV companies, Brain Corporation, Waymo, Tesla, Mobileye, and TuSimple are ones that hold the largest number of patent assets. Their patent portfolios include applications filed across the globe. The top chosen countries by these companies are as follows: 

  • Brain Corporation - US (240), EP (12), CN (11), CA (7), KR (7), JP (6);

  • Waymo - US (603), CN (132), KR (125), EP (115), JP (106), AU (53), CA (52);

  • Tesla - US (693), EP (130), CN (104), JP (92), KR (35), CA (22);

  • Mobileye - US (255), EP (91), CN (49), KR (20), JP (19), CA (7), AU (7); and 

  • TuSimple - CN (213), US (129), EP (3), AU (2). 

From the information above, United States (2004), China (509), Europe (351), Japan (223), Korea (187), Canada (87), and Australia (62) appear to be the most popular patent filing jurisdictions for the top five well-funded AV companies. The total number of applications these five companies filed in these countries accounts for about 86% (3423) of the sum of applications filed by the companies. This may reveal that competition in the AV space is a common theme in these countries. Some companies allocate most of their filings in countries where their offices are located (e.g., Tesla – located and filed applications in US, EP, CN, DE, AU, JP, HK, KR, and TW), while some companies pursue patent protection in foreign jurisdictions based on other factors (e.g., Nexar – located in Israel, filed applications in US without any Israeli filings; and Mobileye – located in Israel and Cyprus, filed applications in US, EP, CN, KR, JP, CA, AU, etc.).

Emerging startups also pursue foreign patent protection, albeit to a lesser extent than more established companies. For example, Momenta with 84 total assets and its headquarter in China, pursued some patent protection in the United States in addition to China; Argo AI with 46 total assets and its headquarter in the US, pursued some patent protection Germany and the United Kingdom in addition to the US; and Innoviz Technologies with its headquarter in Israel pursued patent protection in the US, Europe, China and Korea without filing any patents in Israel.

AV companies looking to develop international patent protection for their innovations can leverage the international strategies employed by the top five well-funded AV companies.  While an emerging upstart may not ultimately pursue all five of the most common jurisdictions (i.e., United States, China, Europe, Japan, Korea, Canada, and Australia) due to cost or other considerations, these five countries may provide a defendable starting point from which to choose jurisdictions for patent protection.  AV companies can then consider factors such as the technical and legal infrastructure of each country, market adoption, potential competitors, potential investors, and the significance of the invention (foundational vs. niche) to ultimately select countries for patent protection.

© 2020 Foley & Lardner LLPNational Law Review, Volume X, Number 149

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About this Author

Chethan Srinivasa, foley lardner, intellectual property lawyer, patent law
Associate

Chethan Srinivasa is an associate and intellectual property lawyer with Foley & Lardner LLP. His practice involves all aspects of patent protection and strategic counseling in electronics and software practice areas including virtualization, cloud services, networking, content delivery, complex event processing, energy efficient lighting technologies, cable telecommunications (ingress/egress mitigation techniques), seismic exploration, GPS-enabled instrumentation, LED lighting solutions, and conservation voltage reduction systems. Mr. Srinivasa is a member of the...

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