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The Rise of the Autonomous Car Wars?

IP Ownership and Trade Secrets

Autonomous vehicles patent wars

The Story

Alphabet’s self-driving car unit Waymo is already making shakes in the automotive world, having just gone on the IP attack against Uber. The Google sibling has sued Uber for using their trade secrets after a former Waymo exec left the company to form “Otto”, which was then acquired by Uber. One of Otto’s innovations is a LiDAR system for autonomous driving, which Google says is using their IP.

Why it Matters

This could be setting a precedent for the self-driving car world, which is still in its infancy and could become the next big battleground. It is also an instance of the new US trade secret law being used, which is driving one of the lesser talked about forms of IP into the spotlight.


7 Years in the USPTO

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email patent

The Story

IBM was recently granted a patent for an out of office email system. This might seem a bit unexpected, given that out of office systems have been around long before the patent application was submitted in 2010. This likely explains why the patent’s grant was somewhat narrower, requiring the system to check the sender’s calendar and warn people in advance that they are going to be away soon. Regardless, IBM have said they will “give the patent to the public” and won’t enforce it.

Why it Matters

For a patent to be prosecuted for over 6 years is somewhat unusual, and it supports accusations from some that “The Patent Office is so out of touch that it conducted years of review of this application without ever discussing any real-world software.” Another point of note is that the world of software patents is somewhat different to that of 2010, and if the patent rights weren’t immediately withdrawn then the patent could have been subject to a PTAB petition under Alice.


The More we Talk, the Smarter you Get

IP implications for virtual assistants

Virtual Assistant

The Story

Natural language interfacing with technology is one of the most prevalent concepts in Sci-Fi. The current rise of the virtual assistants that is taking place has led to tech research firm Gartner predicting that some 20% of all our smartphone interactions could be via a virtual assistant in 2 years time. This has also led to an inevitable wave of lawsuits, with an NPE already suing Apple for infringement by Siri.

Why it Matters

As these systems become more intelligent and complex, the IP situation will become more complex too and will require diligent checks for existing IP, and careful management over how the system is protected.


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