Sector deep dive: Automotive

In recent years the auto industry has become a hive of patenting activity, with R&D focused on autonomous driving, electric vehicles and batteries. As well as the leading OEMs and tier one suppliers found in Table 7, other notable players active in battery research include Samsung and Toshiba. Meanwhile, in areas such as human-machine interface technologies and connected vehicles, the list of leaders features LG, Sony and Samsung. Much of the focus in terms of battery research has been towards wired/wireless charging, better cooling solutions and reducing vehicle weight.

The sector has also witnessed several high-profile litigation cases as convergence means that more and more cellular communication standards (eg, 4G) are being incorporated into a growing fleet of new vehicles. These disputes include Continental v Avanci (which has been dismissed by a US district court) and Nokia v Daimler.

One of the most prominent spats involved Broadcom, which sued Volkswagen for alleged infringement of its patents pertaining to wireless connectivity, graphics and GPS tracking. The battle between one of the largest chip manufacturers and a leading OEM clearly illustrates the clash of technologies. It also highlights marked differences in the value that patented technologies deliver to the end product, how licensing royalties should be calculated and where in the supply chain a patent owner should be expected to license.

While Broadcom and Volkswagen settled their dispute out of court for an undisclosed sum, many of the patent and licensing-related questions confronting the traditional giants of the space remain unresolved. Given the importance of the auto industry to countries such as Germany, this is a challenge with particular resonance in Europe.

Table 1. Automotive players in the top 100

Company nameEU grantsIndustryCountry of origin
Schaeffler Group15,444AutomotiveGermany
Toyota Motor11,125AutomotiveJapan
Honda Motor6,353AutomotiveJapan
ZF Friedrichshafen5,749AutomotiveGermany
General Motors4,788AutomotiveUnited States
Ford Motor Company3,511AutomotiveUnited States
BorgWarner3,450AutomotiveUnited States

Table 2. Automotive technology trends

Top trendsTop playersActive grantsTop players 2019-2020Active grants 2019-2020Key areasOther key players

Advanced driver assistance system

Robert Bosch1,062Volkswagen407

Parking assistance, automatic breaking, traffic control, lane departure, LiDAR/SONAR-based detecting and sensing

LG Corp, Hitachi

Volkswagen1,020Robert Bosch264
Toyota Motors457Renault148
Renault392Toyota Motors142

Electric vehicle

Toyota Motors1,107Toyota Motors291

Parallel hybrid vehicle, HEV transmission, engine control in HEV, electrical vehicle charging (wired, wireless)

General Motors336General Motors71
Robert Bosch318Peugeot66


Robert Bosch364Volkswagen120

Battery charging (wired/ wireless), power storage unit, battery cooling arrangements, propulsion battery construction

Samsung, Toshiba

Volkswagen259Robert Bosch78
Toyota Motors224Toyota Motors71

Autonomous driving


V2X controls, driverless controls, IoT enabled vehicles, human-machine interface vehicles, 5G enabled vehicles, AI enabled vehicles, shared mobility

LG Corp., Sony, Samsung

Robert Bosch73Robert Bosch34
Toyota Motors58Toyota Motors32

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