Foley & Lardner LLPObtaining 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 It should be noted that patent applications typically do not publish for 18 months after their filing date, so the number of patent assets listed here represents a snapshot of the number of patent assets owned by the company as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.

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