Patents in Automobile Industry

Automobile Industry India

The automobile industry originated in the late 19th century in Europe but it was vastly dominated by the United States of America for the first half of the 20th century due to the aspect of its endeavor of innovation and mass production in the field of automobiles.[1] Automobile manufacturing owes its efficacy to France and Germany.[2]

The birth of patenting of automobiles was seen in the year January 1886, when Carl Benz submitted the patent application for his motor car at the Imperial Patent Office in Berlin.[3] In bringing in a new era of individual mobility.[4] The patent application was filed in France in the same year in the month of March.

The automobile sector is an industry with one of the fastest growing revenues. The unfettered level of competition has led to the major players of the IP industry being conscious about protecting their revenues and inventions through the curtain of intellectual property.

The tool of intellectual property laws assists in providing protection for the innovations and creations which are a result of one’s own intellect. The patent laws work as the most primary mode of protection of the inventions. These aim to protect the inventions which are capable of industrial application, has a new element and has an element of inventive step in it.[5]  

India is one of the largest players in automobiles globally. One of the testaments of the same can be discerned by the observation that Hero Honda is the largest two-wheeler manufacturer in the world.[6] There have been several instances that have shaped the Indian scenario and made a viable environment for the automobile industry, not only in terms of manufacturing but also in the terms of research and development.

Patents & Automobile Industry

For an patent application to be granted there should be a few requirements that  an application should fulfill. The elements of the invention to be patented are enunciated as follows:

  1. Novel or New in nature,
  2. Has an Inventive Step,
  3. Capable of Industrial Application,
  4. Non-obvious in nature[7]
  5. Has a Written Description[8]

A patent on any vehicle or its part would be granted only if it fulfills the aforementioned criteria. For a patent application invention to be granted, it must be a development or improvement from the prior state of the art. It should have an inventive step in such a way so that it cannot be anticipated by a person who is skilled in the art.[9]

Automobile Patents in India & worldwide

In India, there are many entities and even small scale automobile companies and the same is apparent by the patent applications filed by several entities. Mahindra & Mahindra has filed 51 patent applications in India in the last five years. Whereas, Honda Motor has filed 376 patent applications in India in the period of preceding five years.[10] Surprisingly, TATA Motors was granted 98 patents in 2020 and it has filed 80 more.[11]

Several companies are working today to increase their patent portfolio, one of the companies that have been interesting in its view of patents is Tesla Motors. It is said to own, 340 patents in the United States of America alone lately.[12] However, the view of the public domain perspective adopted by the corporation is quite interesting. Tesla Motors has designated that all of its patents rest in the public domain. Tesla Motors has also undertaken not to initiate any lawsuits against the people who tend to use their technology in good faith. They provide a viewpoint in their deliberation which can be ignored by many, that the patent laws somehow hinder development and technology transfer. New technology and inventions should be made available to all the inventors and researchers so as to further the cause of development and research.[13]

Contemporarily, the manufacturers in the auto industry are aiming to work in order to maximize the efficiency of fuel. Moreover, in recent years there has been a rise in innovation towards the ambit of AI controlled driving, this has led to the entities putting in more investments in the research and development.[14]


The aforementioned deliberations clearly bring forward that the automotive industry will likely yield vigorous patent application filing activity. The granting of patents in the automobile industry is straight. However, the induction of new technologies becomes difficult due to the high costs that are involved. The industry has come a long way from the first vehicle that was patented in the 19th century, there is a refined set of vehicles today that have the tendency to reduce the involvement of humans in driving it in the future.

[1] Rae, John Bell and Binder, Alan K.. “Automotive industry”. Encyclopedia Britannica, (Updated on November 12, 2020). {https://www.britannica.com/technology/automotive-industry}

[2] Ibid.

[3]About the UNESCO World Documentary Heritage, Mercedes-Benz. {https://w\ljgxww.mercedes-benz.com/en/classic/history/benz-patent-motor-car/}

[4] DRP 37435.

[5] Section 2(j) of Indian Patent Act, 1970.

[6] A Global Corporate. A Global Brand, About Us, Hero Motor Corporation.  {https://www.heromotocorp.com/en-in/about-us.php}

[7] Article 27.1 of The Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS), 1995.

[8] Article 29 of The Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS), 1995.

[9] Alice Corp. v CLS Bank International, 573 U.S. 208.

[10] Role of Intellectual Property In Auto Industry, Patentwire. {https://www.patentwire.co.in/wp-content/uploads/2019/05/Role-of-IP_Auto-Industry.pdf}

[11] Tata Motors receives 98 patents in 2020, Tata Motors, (Updated on January 19, 2021). {https://www.tatamotors.com/press/tata-motors-receives-98-patents-in-2020/}

[12] Results of Search in US Patent Collection db for: AANM/tesla:, USPTO Patent Full-text and Image Database, United States Patent and Trademark Office. {http://patft.uspto.gov/netacgi/nph-Parser?Sect1=PTO2&Sect2=HITOFF&p=1&u=%2Fnetahtml%2FPTO%2Fsearch-bool.html&r=0&f=S&l=50&TERM1=tesla&FIELD1=AANM&co1=OR&TERM2=&FIELD2=&d=PTXT}

[13] All Our Patent Are Belong To You,  { https://www.tesla.com/blog/all-our-patent-are-belong-you}

[14]Maryam Zehtabchi, Measuring Innovation in Autonomous Vehicle Technology, Economic Research Working Paper No. 60, World Intellectual Property Rights Organization (WIPO), (Updated on November, 2019). {https://www.wipo.int/edocs/pubdocs/en/wipo_pub_econstat_wp_60.pdf

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