LG, Google, and Sony leading the patent development for ‘self-driving car’ are now car companies?

Self-driving shuttle bus ‘Shucle’. Provided by the Korean Intellectual Property Office (Source: Hyundai Motor Company)

“The game-changer in the automotive market is not electric vehicles, but autonomous vehicles.”

Herbert Diess, the CEO of Volkswagen Group, said these words on September 5, showing how important the automotive industry is to the future of autonomous vehicles.

The global autonomous vehicle market is projected to grow at a CAGR of 41.0% from $154.9 billion (about 181 trillion won) in 2025 to $1.12 trillion (about 1313 trillion won) in 2035. The domestic autonomous vehicle market is also expected to grow at a CAGR of 40.0% from 150.9 billion won in 2020 to 26,179.4 billion won in 2035.

In this prediction that self-driving cars will turn the automobile industry upside down, IT (information and communication) companies such as LG, Google, and Sony are leading the technology development in this market. It is also predicted that IT companies will lead the self-driving car market in the future.

As a result of analysis of patent trends related to autonomous driving technology by the Korean Intellectual Property Office, it was found that automobile manufacturers, IT companies, and autonomous driving parts companies are currently in a three-way battle to take the lead in the autonomous driving technology patent field. In particular, as global IT companies penetrate this market strongly, they are competing with existing automakers to secure market leadership.

The Korean Intellectual Property Office (KIPO) investigated the patent application trends (2006-2020) of patent offices in five advanced countries (US, EU, China, Japan, and Korea), which account for 85% of global patent applications. 17 leading parts makers have applied for 24,294 autonomous driving patents.

By industry, automobile manufacturers have the most patent applications with 13,280 cases (54.7%), followed by IT companies (5765 cases, 23.7%) and parts makers (5249 cases, 21.6%).

An official from the Korean Intellectual Property Office said, “Recently, IT companies and parts makers are increasing the number of patent applications faster than automakers.

In the ranking of multiple applications by company, Japanese automaker Toyota took the first place with 5239 cases, followed by Japanese IT company Sony (3630 cases), Korean automaker Hyundai Motor (3080 cases), and Japanese automaker Honda (2844 cases) ), American car maker Ford (2,069 cases), Korean IT company LG (2019 cases), Japanese car maker Nissan (1779 cases), and American IT company Google (1727 cases) followed.

It is noteworthy that among the top eight companies, three IT companies in Japan, Korea, and the United States, including Sony (2nd), LG (6th), and Google (8th), are actively developing autonomous vehicle technology.

Concept diagram of autonomous vehicle. Provided by the Korean Intellectual Property Office

Concept diagram of autonomous vehicle. Provided by the Korean Intellectual Property Office

An official from the Korean Intellectual Property Office explained, “In a situation where global IT companies are actively seeking patents for autonomous vehicles, it is analyzed that LG is putting the most effort into securing patents among domestic IT companies.”

Lee Se-kyung, head of the autonomous driving examination team at the Korean Intellectual Property Office, said, “Patent disputes between the auto industry and the IT industry are expected to increase in the future. It is necessary,” he advised.


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