Self-Driving Cars - "IP Driving Acquisition"

06 August 2015 Dashboard Insights Blog

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 Silicon Valley and Chinese companies like Uber and Baidu. The press also suggested the purchase allows the automakers to offer new premium features like autonomous driving.

So I’m asking why would these companies pay billions just for an alternative to Google Maps?  Something more is “driving” this acquisition…

A search of the U.S. Patent Office reveals HERE has 43 recently issued patents and 49 pending, published patent applications. Many of these patent applications are directed to “map features” (e.g., US 20150170514 “Systems and Methods for Detecting Road Congestion and Incidents in Real Time”) but several of them are clearly directed to assisted driving or automated driving features, including patents to “Creating Geometry for Advanced Driver Assistance Systems” (US 9,068,856) and “Method and Apparatus for Notifying Drivers of Space Required for Other Vehicles” (US 9,047,766).

Certainly, part of the motivation of the German auto companies was to keep these patents out of the hands of rivals. Reuters reported that the CEO of Daimler said of this transaction:

With the joint acquisition of HERE, we want to secure the independence of this central service for all vehicle manufacturers, suppliers and customers in other industries.

In other words, the auto companies didn’t want someone else to get patent rights that would place obstacles and added costs to bringing the technology to market.

Key Takeaways

This transaction is an example of sophisticated companies understanding the vital importance of intellectual property like patents in commercializing new technologies. All companies should include intellectual property (IP) as part of its business strategy. IP landscape studies can help a company understand what companies have rights to different technologies in a particular industry. IP audits can help a company understand what rights it has and what risks are present for potential infringement of the IP of others.

This blog is made available by Foley & Lardner LLP (“Foley” or “the Firm”) for informational purposes only. It is not meant to convey the Firm’s legal position on behalf of any client, nor is it intended to convey specific legal advice. Any opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the views of Foley & Lardner LLP, its partners, or its clients. Accordingly, do not act upon this information without seeking counsel from a licensed attorney. This blog is not intended to create, and receipt of it does not constitute, an attorney-client relationship. Communicating with Foley through this website by email, blog post, or otherwise, does not create an attorney-client relationship for any legal matter. Therefore, any communication or material you transmit to Foley through this blog, whether by email, blog post or any other manner, will not be treated as confidential or proprietary. The information on this blog is published “AS IS” and is not guaranteed to be complete, accurate, and or up-to-date. Foley makes no representations or warranties of any kind, express or implied, as to the operation or content of the site. Foley expressly disclaims all other guarantees, warranties, conditions and representations of any kind, either express or implied, whether arising under any statute, law, commercial use or otherwise, including implied warranties of merchantability, fitness for a particular purpose, title and non-infringement. In no event shall Foley or any of its partners, officers, employees, agents or affiliates be liable, directly or indirectly, under any theory of law (contract, tort, negligence or otherwise), to you or anyone else, for any claims, losses or damages, direct, indirect special, incidental, punitive or consequential, resulting from or occasioned by the creation, use of or reliance on this site (including information and other content) or any third party websites or the information, resources or material accessed through any such websites. In some jurisdictions, the contents of this blog may be considered Attorney Advertising. If applicable, please note that prior results do not guarantee a similar outcome. Photographs are for dramatization purposes only and may include models. Likenesses do not necessarily imply current client, partnership or employee status.

Related Services