… noted Jeremy in the last post to IP Finance. SMEs in the automotive sector may be interested in a recently completed study which maps the IP business models behind ten cases of US patent, trade secret and trade mark litigation brought by the most prolific US patent applicants in the field of braking technology. The study’s author runs the Engineering Intellectual Property Research Unit at Cranfield University’s School of Engineering.
The study shows that the predominant IP monetisation mechanism in the field of braking is that of “monopoly provision”, i.e. using IP to exclude competing suppliers. There is only one instance of a patent licensing relationship, that being with a company already related to the patentee, suggesting that SME developers of braking technology may struggle to license into prolific US patent applicant companies.
As regards the IP mix that such SME developers might employ, the study confirms that trade secret protection is not used above raw material / component-level manufacture. It also illustrates the risk of third party patent infringement associated with trade secret protection.
The greatest threat of infringement litigation appears to come from competitors at a similar level on the value chain, the study also showing that neither the small size of an SME nor the large size of a company’s patent portfolio can guarantee immunity from suit.