Category Archives: Intellectual Property

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A Perfect Storm for Automotive Patent Disputes?

As the automotive industry rebounds from its recessionary levels to an all time record level of spending on vehicles and healthy profitability, one of the key drivers of the increased vehicles sales has been increased innovation and major redesigns of vehicles. The number of new products in 2014 increased nearly 50% compared to the preceding … Continue reading this entry

Connected and Autonomous Vehicles - Moving Forward in High Gear

This is my second and final installment in reporting on the Center for Automotive Research (CAR)’s 50th annual “Management Briefing Seminars” conference held earlier this month in Traverse City, Michigan. Connected and Automated Vehicles:  Competition, Rules and Interesting Times The first presentation on day one included a fantastic group of panelists from automotive suppliers, government agencies … Continue reading this entry

Self-Driving Cars - "IP Driving Acquisition"

As Chair of Foley & Lardner’s Electronics Practice Group, I recently published a LinkedIn article about news reports of a group of German auto companies including BMW, Audi and Daimler acquiring HERE Global (Nokia’s map business) for U.S. $2.8 billion. Reuters says that HERE’s primary competitor is Google Maps. The Reuters article said that the auto companies outbid … Continue reading this entry

Is It Time to Switch Gears? Enforceability of Automotive Company Employee Confidentiality Restrictions

New Federal Trade Secret Protections on the Horizon?
Given the large workforces and importance of intellectual property and trade secrets in the automotive industry, automotive companies rely heavily on confidentiality provisions in employment agreements and employee handbooks. Thanks to a recent enforcement action brought by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC), it may be time to review and revise these confidentiality provisions.… Continue reading this entry

Yesterday’s Car Buff Is Today’s Hacker

If you need any evidence that modern vehicles are becoming more computer than car, look no further than this month’s over-the-air update from Tesla Motors pushed out to all of its Model S sedans. Like the latest iOS from Apple or a Security Update from Microsoft, a car manufacturer has the ability to remotely and automatically … Continue reading this entry

The Auto Industry: The Next “Big” Target for Hackers?

Given the exponential rise in security breaches and hacking activity in past few years and the almost constant headlines in the press of yet another major security breach, information security should be a front burner issue for every business. While the auto industry has, for the most part, avoided being a primary target for hackers in … Continue reading this entry

European Trade Secrets Directive Looks to Unify and Strengthen Protection of Proprietary Business Information in the EU

New Federal Trade Secret Protections on the Horizon?
Home to several of the world’s largest OEMs, and a major place of operations for others, Europe has a thriving automotive industry. As borders have become more and more open in the European Union, OEMs and their suppliers often have operations in several different countries. However, these businesses, as do those in other industries, then have to … Continue reading this entry

Before Driverless Cars, Questions

Drive Forward: The Future of Telematics
Although it is unclear when autonomous vehicles will be hitting the roads, what is clear is that this technology is coming. Automakers to suppliers to lawmakers to insurers will want to carefully consider the following issues and their legal implications before consumers take this technology for a spin. Telematics Data Privacy and Security Telematics systems … Continue reading this entry

Protect Your Safety Investigations and Deliberations From Prying Eyes

Every day companies deal with an ongoing safety analysis of their own products. These Safety Teams are routinely interdepartmental. The Safety Teams must consider design changes, manufacturing issues, potential recalls, potential claims or lawsuits and overall consumer safety. Sensitive information is always shared by the Safety Team. Companies believe (or hope) that the process, including any … Continue reading this entry

When It Comes to Confidentiality Agreements, Just Getting the Signature Is Not Enough

New Federal Trade Secret Protections on the Horizon?
Automotive suppliers and other manufacturers frequently have to share their valuable intellectual property with third parties. A supplier might need to share CAD files with another supplier to ensure that the finished product works, or a business that has designed a product may outsource the manufacturing to a business that can better handle production. Parties to such … Continue reading this entry

Patent Office Extends AFCP 2.0 and QPIDS Pilot Programs to September 2015

New Federal Trade Secret Protections on the Horizon?
The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) just announced it has extended the After Final Consideration Pilot program (AFCP 2.0) and the Quick Path Information Disclosure Statement program (QPIDS), which are now set to run until September 30, 2015. For automotive, manufacturing, and other companies, the AFCP 2.0 and QPIDS programs can help reduce … Continue reading this entry

BYOD and the Auto Industry: A Marriage Made in Heaven or Hell?

By all accounts, Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) to work is catching on like wildfire because virtually every American worker holds a device in the palm of their hand which is faster and more powerful than some of the most powerful desktop computers from as little as ten years ago. As employees at all levels of … Continue reading this entry

Gaps in New DOD Counterfeit Parts Rules Raise Compliance Questions for Contractors

The U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) published, on May 6, 2014, its first set of final regulations imposing specific obligations on defense contractors and their suppliers for the detection and avoidance of counterfeit electronic parts. Those new rules represent an improvement over DOD’s initial proposal, but still expose contractors and their suppliers to substantial risks, especially when … Continue reading this entry

New Federal Trade Secret Protections on the Horizon?

Conspicuously absent in the quiver of arrows available to a business looking to take action against someone who has misappropriated or is threatening to misappropriate its trade secrets is a federal cause of action for misappropriation. While the Economic Espionage Act has been used in prosecutions for trade secret misappropriation (including within the automotive industry), it … Continue reading this entry

Inter Partes Review Worthwhile Alternative to Patent Litigation

The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) recently issued its second decision in a new inter partes review proceeding. In the decision, the USPTO Patent Trial and Appeal Board invalidated all of the claims of the patent under review. The patent was related to a no-idle air conditioning system used for long haul trucks. In July … Continue reading this entry

Protecting Manufacturing Advancements Is Important for Next-Generation Manufacturers

Manufacturing continues to grow in the United States, fueled primarily by innovations in technology, human capital, and advances in the manufacturing process itself. With the advent of new technologies, particularly technologies that provide an advantage over the competition, next-generation manufacturers must zealously protect its intellectual property and assets associated with such manufacturing technologies. Next-generation manufacturers … Continue reading this entry

Shift To Modular Platforms Raises New Issues for Manufacturers And Suppliers

One way in which next-generation manufacturing is impacting the automotive industry is the movement toward modular architecture. These designs use common underpinnings for various models across a variety of vehicle segments, minimizing the variation between parts needed for these models. Volkswagen says their MQB architecture will eventually underpin roughly 40 models, ranging from subcompact hatchbacks like the … Continue reading this entry

Patent Office Extends AFCP 2.0 to December 2013

The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) just announced that the After Final Consideration Pilot 2.0 (AFCP 2.0) has been extended to December 14, 2013. The AFCP 2.0 was previously scheduled to expire on September 30, 2013. This is good news because, in some circumstances, the AFCP 2.0 program may benefit automotive companies and other … Continue reading this entry

For Patent Office, it's Business-as-Usual During Government Shutdown...for Now

Since last Tuesday, October 1, 2013, the government shutdown has forced several U.S. governmental agencies to reduce operations and furlough employees. This has not been the case for the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), which has remained operational due to a reserve fund from prior fee collections. For automotive companies and other Patent … Continue reading this entry

The Supreme Court: Cases to Watch in the October 2013 Term

This week marks the first Monday in October, which for Supreme Court watchers is a holiday: the start of a new term.  While not everyone gets that excited about the new term, there are several cases that the Court intends to hear this term that merit attention from businesses in the automotive sector.  Below is … Continue reading this entry

Auto Makers Flatten Patent Troll

On August 9, 2013 the Federal Circuit decided Taurus IP, LLC v. DaimlerChrysler Corp., 2013 U.S. App. LEXIS 16507 (Court of Appeals, August 9, 2013). Taurus IP (a non-practicing entity) accused the auto manufacturers (DaimlerChrysler Company, Mercedes-Benz and Chrysler Group) for infringing claim 16 of U.S. Patent No. 6,141,658 (‘658 patent). The Federal Circuit affirmed the … Continue reading this entry

When Outsourcing Manufacturing Can be a Patent Killer

In recent decades, companies seeking to reduce manufacturing costs and improve profit margins have increasingly employed contract manufacturing – that is, the outsourcing of partial or complete manufacturing of products to third party producers, particularly those in countries with lower labor costs such as China, India, and the like. More recently, next generation manufacturers have … Continue reading this entry

Silicon Valley Invades the Automotive Homeland

NVIDIA, a Silicon Valley leader in Visual Computing Technologies has opened an office in Ann Arbor to be closer to the Automotive Industry. While the office has only six people, with the Auto industry doing well it will surely grow. NVIDIA’s roots are in visual computing, but it has expanded and now includes an entire product … Continue reading this entry

IP Protection in China: Strategies for a New Era

Recently, China sought to reassure foreign investors that it would never close its doors to the outside world and was committed to making China a fairer place to conduct business. “We are protecting the legitimate rights of foreign enterprises according to law,” said Chinese President Xi Jinping during a roundtable discussion with international business leaders … Continue reading this entry