With the energy crisis and the worldwide push to “go green”, innovation in the automotive sector is at an all time high. This puts automotive patent holders in a prime position to sell or license their patent. However, it would behoove you to do some research on how automotive patents are typically capitalized on, as well as who would be most likely to buy or license said patents.
Most of the action in the automotive industry takes place in Michigan, specifically Detroit, or “Motown.” A recent article called “Auto Industry Fueling Growth in Michigan’s Patent Applications” describes the recent surge in auto innovation there:
“The auto industry may be bleeding money throughout Michigan, but it is fueling a rise in innovation in the state, federal data on patent activity shows.
The state saw a 20 percent rise in the numbers of patents granted between 2000 and 2006, the years for which the most recent data is available, compared with the seven-year 1993-1999 period, according to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.”
However, a number of auto leaders do business internationally as well. Wikipedia offers a handy chart that breaks down, by volume, the largest auto makers and their divisions and subsidiary companies. The table is based on the most recent OICA data.
General Motors, Ford, and Chrysler are the largest players in the United States market, in that order. Under the GM flag are brands like Buick, Cadillac, Hummer, Pontiac, Saturn, and Saab. Ford encompasses Lincoln, Mercury, and Volvo, while Chrysler markets the Dodge and Jeep line of trucks and SUVs. The divisions of each auto maker should inform your decision on who to contact about selling your patent.
If your patent pertains to low-mid range sedans or gigantic SUVs, you might look to score a meeting with someone from GM. If your patent applies to luxury models like the Lincoln Towncar, a call to Ford might be best. And if your invention would be best utilized in a heavy-lifting work vehicle like a Dodge Ram or Jeep Cherokee, Chrysler is probably the ideal networking target. Of course, there are several other auto makers worth considering who operate outside of the U.S., but it often helps to start closer to home.
It is also worth noting that many automakers own stock in and have business partnerships with other automakers. This means that even if you fail to sell or license your patent to one automaker, they might be able to put you in touch with one that would be more amenable to your proposal. Here is a quick reference of ownership overlap within the automotive industry.
- Porsche holds a 20% stake in the Volkswagen Group (30.97% voting rights), as of 2006–12-31.
- The Renault–Nissan alliance involves two global companies linked by cross-shareholding, with Renault holding 44.3% of Nissan shares, and Nissan holding 15% of Renault shares.
- Ford holds an 33.9% stake in Mazda. and an 8.3% share in Aston Martin.
- Hyundai Motor Co. holds a 38.67% stake in Kia Motors.
- Daimler AG holds an 19.9% stake in Chrysler Holding LLC.
- General Motors still holds a 3% stake in Suzuki. Suzuki is also partner with GM in GMDAT and CAMI.
- Toyota holds 51% stake Daihatsu hence having a controlling interest in the company.
However, not every automotive patent holder should necessarily target auto makers. Instead, some patents are probably more attractive to auto dealers, of which there are tens of thousands across the United States. If you are unsure of which auto dealer to contact or how to get in touch with them, the National Automobile Dealer Association is a good place to start. They are an automotive industry trade group that represents some 20,000 dealerships across the U.S. and boasts some 43,000 worldwide franchises. They also develop comprehensive research data on the auto industry, which might be of use to you in putting your pitch together.
You can contact the NADA by phone, e-mail, or snail mail.
National Automobile Dealers Association
8400 Westpark Drive
McLean, Virginia 22102
(703) 821-7000 or (800) 252-6232
Of course, you will want to consult a patent attorney before diving headlong into negotiations. Furthermore, this attorney should be one with experience and success in the auto sector. One proven winner in this field is Quinn Law Group, PLLC. “Auto Industry Fueling Growth…” discusses the track record and auto industry connections Quinn has at its disposal:
Principal Christopher Quinn said patent applications in areas such as hybrid technology, vehicle safety and electronics are helping drive annual revenue increases of 20 percent or more. The 19-member firm works with customers including General Motors Corp. and suppliers, as well as with out-of-state companies, many with Michigan offices, whose patents wouldn’t necessarily show up in USPTO data, he said.
Quinn can be contacted at the following web URL:
All in all, your quest to sell or license an auto patent should begin with a careful matching of your patent to the right auto maker, and end with the assistance of a proven attorney in the field.
Eric Corl is the President of Idea Buyer LLC, a new product development company that owns and operates IdeaBuyer.com- The Online Marketplace for Intellectual Property. The site gives inventors the opportunity to showcase their intellectual property to consumer product companies, entrepreneurs, retailers, and manufacturers. You can email him at EricCorl@IdeaBuyer.com.