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Clean &


Who holds the power?
Lessons from hybrid
car innovation for
clean technologies
Hybrid car technology

Companies wanting to create a profitable market position in the competitive clean
technology landscape must understand their competitors’ patents and how these
will impact their business.
By Mike Lloyd and Justin Blows

Clean & Sustainable Lessons from hybrid car innovation
Technologies Group
Toyota has become synonymous with hybrid cars: three out of
Griffith Hack’s Clean & four hybrid cars sold in the US are made by Toyota. This is no
Sustainable Technologies accident. Toyota set out in 1994 to develop hybrid cars and to
Group provides intellectual protect their development with patent filings. Toyota has now
property services to sold more than two million hybrid cars.
organisations that develop
technologies with a reduced Research by Griffith Hack on patents filed in the hybrid car area
environmental impact. We showed that Toyota has filed more than 4000 patent filings, or
have been immersed in 43% of hybrid car patent families filed by car companies, with
these technologies for many more than 1000 patents claimed for the 2009 Prius alone.
years. We are excited by the Toyota’s aggressive product development and patent filing strategy
challenges and opportunities has forced its competitors to react in different ways:
that now present to innovators • Some companies have licensed hybrid car technology from Toyota.
in Australia and worldwide. • Other companies have attempted to develop hybrid car
technology in different directions not patented by Toyota.
Contents • Some patent holders have sued Toyota for patent infringement,
– The Opportunity........... 2. with mixed success.
Patent strategies in hybrid • Other innovative companies have developed technologies
car technologies demanded by some consumers and not offered by
– The Method ................... 4. market leaders.
Understanding this study There are valuable lessons here for all innovation managers
and the research conducted on how to use patents to support innovation strategies.
– The Results ................... 5. This is also an excellent case study of how the patent system
The international hybrid assisted in bringing forward investment in a clean and
patent landscape sustainable technology. Toyota invested in hybrid car innovation
– The Lessons ................ 14 when global oil prices were relatively low, possibly because
Understand your position they saw an opportunity to create a valuable patent position
and that of your competitors when petrol prices increased.

Hybrid cars provide a
great case study of how a
visionary patent strategy
can positively impact
commercial success

A growing market government charges as well as
Hybrid cars provide a great tax incentives, but tend to be
example of consumers showing more expensive than equivalent
a willingness to purchase conventional cars.
environmentally friendly products
when given a choice. While the Technology trends
hybrid-only Toyota Prius is Hybrid cars are also a stepping
perhaps the best known hybrid car, stone towards plug-in cars, .
Toyota, along with Honda, Ford, which recharge their batteries
Nissan, General Motors (GM), from mains electricity and may .
Audi and BMW have all offered or may not include a conventional
hybrid cars since 1997. Toyota has engine. Plug in cars may even be
since gone on to sell more than . programmed to recharge their “The hybrid car industry is
two million hybrid cars. Sales are batteries when electricity is . a great example of clean
still increasing, with hybrid car cheap, and then resupply some . technology innovation in
sales expected to grow by 20% to of this energy back to the . action. Toyota’s initiative
20121, and to comprise 80% of US electrical grid. This may help . and aggressive patent filing
vehicle sales by 2020 . to smooth out erratic supply . strategy have both led to
The 2009 Toyota Prius hybrid from renewable sources such as worldwide sales dominance
car recently displaced Honda’s solar and wind. and forced competitors to
Insight hybrid car as the biggest Hybrid cars provide a great respond in a variety of ways.
selling car in Japan. Hybrid engine case study of how a visionary There are lessons here for
technology has even infiltrated patent strategy can positively all innovative companies,
Formula One, with some teams impact commercial success. including the need to adjust
trialing a hybrid technology option Hybrid car patents are relatively your IP strategy depending on
in the 2009 season. easy to identify, allowing patent your existing IP position within
This success has been trends to be easily identified your sector.” – Mike Lloyd
largely in the absence of major and related back to commercial
supporting regulations and drivers. The lessons revealed Mike Lloyd, IP Management
comparatively few economic from hybrid car patent analysis Consultant: phone (03) 9243
incentives3. Hybrid cars consume can be applied to other areas of 8315 or email mike.lloyd@
less petrol than conventional clean technology as well as to
cars, and can attract lower local conventional technology. 
Hybrid car technology

In-depth research
Griffith Hack patent searchers
searched international patent
databases for patents that had
the words ‘hybrid’ and ‘car’
within two words of each other
in either the title or the abstract,
and where patents were filed in
1980 or later. Altogether around
58,000 individual patents were
found, which were combined .
into 19,500 patent families.
A patent family is defined as
a group of patents for the same
invention and sharing the .
same initial filing date. This .
can arise where the same or
similar patents are filed in two .
or more countries, or where
different aspects of a common
invention are protected by .
related patents.
What is a hybrid car?
Patent Network Analytics
Patent data was analysed for Hybrid cars can be defined as a vehicle that includes both a petrol or
trends that illustrate patent diesel engine (hereafter ‘engine’) and a secondary form of propulsion.
strategy. In addition, patent The secondary form of propulsion is most often an electric motor
quality or ‘dominance’ was powered by a battery or the engine, but may include other secondary
assessed by a method that power devices such as compressed gases or a flywheel.
combined all known hybrid car Hybrid cars offer better fuel consumption than equivalent
patents by building a network . conventional cars because 1) the energy normally lost as heat
of their citations (‘Patent . during braking can be captured and reused to assist the engine
Network Analytics’), and then and 2) there is scope to plug hybrid cars into power points at night
determining which patents sat . and recharge the battery from mains electricity, which is cheaper
in the centre of this network . . and has less environmental impact than energy from fossil fuels.
This method was used to assess
The major disadvantage with hybrid cars is they require complex
both individual patents and
systems to integrate the engine and the secondary propulsion
also patent portfolios; a more
system. This complexity has formed the basis of many hybrid car
dominant patent portfolio had
patent applications.
more patents in the centre of the
patent network.

Leading the way Figure 1: Toyota, Nissan and Honda lead the rest of the world in hybrid .
Toyota leads the world in hybrid car patent families
car patent families (Figure 1).
Toyota holds 43% of the known
Hybrid patent families filed by car companies
hybrid car patent families, or
more than 4000 patent families,
Toyota 43%
compared to just 8% of patent
Nissan 15%
families held by US car companies.
Other Japanese car companies, Honda 9%
including Nissan and Honda, have Other Japanese
car companies
filed an additional 35% of the
All US car companies 8%
known hybrid car patents filed by
All European car 7%
car companies. companies
Korea — Hyundai
Toyota achieved its leading and Kia 6%

position in around 1995 (Figure 2). Chinese car companies 1%
Toyota had filed almost no hybrid
0 5 10 15 20 25 30 35 40 45 50
car patents in the beginning of .
Percentage of known hybrid car patents
the 1990s, and European car .
filed by car companies
companies (mainly Volkswagen/
Audi) were leading the patent race.
However, Toyota ramped up patent
filing in 1992, and quickly built Figure 2: Toyota moves ahead of its competition in the number of hybrid car
a strong lead, which only other patents in about 1995, building from a very low base
Japanese car companies attempted
to keep up with in the 1990s. US
car companies also started filing Cumulative hybrid car patent families filed by car companies, 1990-2000
more patents in the mid-1990s,
Cumulative total of patent car families

but much more slowly than the 400 Toyota
Other Japanese car companies
Japanese companies. 350

Hybrid cars 250

European car companies
US car companies

offer better fuel 150

consumption 100

than equivalent 0
conventional cars 1990 1992 1994 1996 1998 2000

Priority year of patent family 
Hybrid car technology

Non-Japanese suppliers
have been slower to .
increase patent filings

Figure 3: Toyota has continued to increase its lead over other patent . Toyota retains a commanding
applicants since 1995 lead in patent filings to this day
(Figure 3).
The analysis showed an apparent
Cumulative hybrid car patent families, 1995-2007 correlation between the number .
of hybrid cars sold by Toyota and
4500 Toyota
the number of patents filed .
Cumulative total of patent car families

4000 (Figure 4). This suggests that
Other Japanese car companies
3500 commercial success of the Toyota
3000 US car companies
hybrids is encouraging Toyota .
European car companies to file more patents.
This has helped Toyota to
dominate hybrid sales in the .
1500 US, the largest car market in .
1000 the world (Figure 5).
500 The dominance of Toyota and
other Japanese car companies in
1990 1995 2000 2005 hybrid car patents is also mirrored
Priority year by suppliers to these companies
(Figure 6). Japanese suppliers also
ramped up patent filings in the
mid-1990s and have continued
Figure 4: Toyota hybrid car patent filings precede hybrid car sales, but then ramp to increase their patent filings,
up along with hybrid car sales. Sales data: Toyota website although they have not filed as
many patents as Japanese car
companies. In contrast, non-
Japanese suppliers, while filing
Toyota hybrid patent family filings and vehicle sales fewer patents than Japanese
suppliers, filed more patents than
Patent family filings (per year)

1200 Hybrid car sales 350
Worldwide hybrid car sales,

non-Japanese car companies.
Family patent filings 300
1000 Hybrid car innovation may be

800 more driven by suppliers than car
600 companies outside of Japan, while
the converse applies within Japan.
200 50
1991 1993 1995 1997 1999 2001 2003 2005
Toyota retains a
Priority/sales year commanding lead
in patent filings

Figure 5: Toyota and sub-brand Lexus account for three quarters of the 660,000
hybrid cars sold in the US in 2007-8. Source:

US hybrid vehicle sales 2007-2008

Toyota / Lexus 77%

Honda 10%

Ford 7%

Nissan 3%

GM 3% “Growing concerns about
energy security, climate
0 10 20 30 40 50 60 70 80
change and pollution are
Percentage of hybrid cars sold
motivating governments
everywhere to introduce
strong measures that
favour innovation in clean
Figure 6: Japanese suppliers supported Japanese car companies in filing hybrid car technologies such as hybrid
patents from 1995 onwards cars, renewable energy and
the smart grid. This report
demonstrates that industry
players, such as Toyota
in the case of hybrid cars,
Cumulative hybrid car patent family filings, 1995-2007 are massively investing
8000 Japanese car companies
in IP to ensure that they
Japanese suppliers will be competitive as the
Non-Japanese suppliers world moves into a new
Non-Japanese car companies age of clean technology.
5000 Businesses that embrace
4000 sustainability innovate and
3000 flourish, provided they
protect their IP carefully and
thoughtfully.” – Justin Blows.

0 Dr Justin Blows, Associate:
1995 1997 1999 2001 2003 2005 2007 phone (02) 9925 5900
Priority year of hybrid car patents or email justin.blows@ 
Hybrid car technology

Figure 7: Most Japanese patents were only filed in Japan While Japanese companies
filed many hybrid car patents,
Apparent patent filing strategy the majority of these patent
families were only filed in Japan,
All Japanese car
although enough Japanese
companies patents were filed outside of
Japanese suppliers Japan to make them the most
US car companies common international patents as
US suppliers well (Figure 7). In contrast, the
European car One (own) country only, or only in Europe
majority of patent families filed
companies by non-Japanese companies were
More than one country, or as PCT patent
European suppliers filed in more than one country.
Other car companies Of the patents filed
Other suppliers internationally, the majority of
Japanese and non-European
patents were filed in the US, but
0 2,000 4,000 6,000 8,000 less than half of these patents
Number of known hybrid patent families were filed in Europe. In contrast,
European applicants only tended
to file their patents in Europe,
Figure 8: Toyota has filed the most hybrid car patent families with a US family member with less than 50% of their
international patents in either the
US or Japan.
Leading car company applicants — hybrid car
patent families with US family member
The net effect of these different
patent filing strategies is that
Toyota 605 Toyota dominated hybrid car
Honda 358
patents in the US as it does
elsewhere, but the relative lead
Ford 345
was not as strong. Also, Ford
GM 336 and GM follow closely behind
Nissan 276 the second strongest filer Honda
Mitsubishi 63 (Figure 8).
Network Patent Analytics has
Hyundai 58
confirmed that Toyota had the most
Daimler-Benz 40 dominant patent portfolio (Table
Chrysler 39 1). Honda and Nissan were next,
Suzuki 30 with Ford patents having greater
dominance than those from GM.
0 50 100 150 200 250 300 350 400 450 500 550 600 650
Surprisingly, four of the ten
Number of hybrid car patents filed most dominant patents, including
the top two, were filed by the

Toyota had virtually no
hybrid car patents until .
the early 1990s

relatively unknown American Figures 2 and 3 show that the technology to offset its high
hybrid car drivetrain developer decision by Toyota to invest in development cost and to help
Paice Corporation (see Table 2, hybrid car development was set “the standard for the hybrid
page 10). The leading patent filed mirrored by a decision to invest power train” .
by Toyota was in sixth position, aggressively in patent protection. Toyota has been open about
and the leading patent filed by Toyota’s aggressive patent filing its patent strategy, claiming in
Ford was in equal eighth place. strategy has made life difficult a recent presentation : “The
Paice’s dominant patents allowed for other companies, and likely first-generation Prius held more
it to have the ninth most dominant forced them into either designing than 300 patents on its hybrid
patent portfolio despite having around the Toyota patents and/ technology. The second-generation
comparatively few patents. or taking a license from Toyota. Prius claimed 370 patents. Since
Ford and Nissan have elected to then, the Prius nameplate has
The ascent of Toyota do the latter, with Toyota thought had more than 2000 patent
Hybrid sports cars and patents . to be open to licensing its hybrid applications filed across the world,
are not new. The first known
hybrid car was designed by .
Dr Ferdinand Porsche in 1898 Table 1: Most dominant hybrid car patent owners according to network analysis
as a means of extending the
performance of a pure electric . Relative Number of
car6, and before Dr Porsche went Rank Patent owner dominance patents in
on to design the iconic Volkswagen index* data set
Beetle and Porsche range of .
1 Toyota 100 3635
sports car. The first known US
hybrid car patent was filed in .
2 Honda 71 1435
1905 by the Belgian engineer .
Henri Pieper. Audi started
3 Nissan 62 1644
developing prototype hybrid cars
from 1989, with an unsuccessful
4 Ford 60 809
attempt to commercialise these
vehicles in 1997. 5 General Motors 23 428
The single event that has
done more than any other to 6 Peugeot-Citroen 22 255
commercialise hybrid technology
was Toyota investing in this area. 7 Hitachi 21 393
Toyota had virtually no hybrid car
patents until the early 1990s, but 8 Volkswagen 20 127
a corporate decision was made to
develop this technology in 1994 .
7 Paice
9 18 28
The first Toyota Prius was sold in
Japan in 1997, followed by the US 10 Renault 16 209
and Europe in 2000. 
Hybrid car technology

Table 2: Most dominant hybrid car patents according to network analysis

Patent Priority
Rank Summary Owner
number year

Hybrid car with two
electric motors, one
US Paice
1 1998 connected to engine
6,209,672 Corporation
and one connected to
car wheels with the third-generation Prius
Transmission that filing 1000 on its own10.”
US combines power from Paice In fact, the patent advantage
2 1992
5,343,970 electric motor and Corporation enjoyed by Toyota may be greater
engine than its numerical advantage
Control system for suggests. The patent system
US combining electric Equos allows early patent applicants in
3 1995
5,806,617 and motor power in Research a new technology area to gain an
important ‘first mover advantage’.
The first company to file a patent
Electric motor coupled
US Paice or patents in a particular area has
4 1999 to turbocharged motor,
6,338,391 Corporation an opportunity to secure a broad
and control system
monopoly and use this monopoly
Engine driving for commercial advantage.
one set of wheels, Secondly, early patent applicants
and electric motor
US Hybricon have an opportunity to file further
5 1978 partially powered by
4,351,405 Incorporated patents for related inventions,
regenerative braking
driving the other set of where the use of these related
wheels inventions may infringe on the
earlier patents, but still represent
Control system for a patentable improvement over
US electric motor powered
6 1991 Toyota the earlier patents.
5,428,274 by internal combustion
motor or battery Owning a large number of
patents also lowers the risk that .
Hybrid only runs a court may find one or more .
US Paice
7 2001 engine when high of the owner’s patents invalid. .
6,554,088 Corporation
torque needed A determined competitor may .
find the evidence needed to
Controller for invalidate a major patent, but
US requesting an engine the probability of invalidating or
8= 1992 Ford
5,264,764 driven generator to top
even avoiding some 4000 patent
up the vehicle battery
families, such as those filed by
Controls battery Toyota, is very unlikely.
level on hybrid
1999 drive according Hitachi A viable investment
to navigation plans Toyota’s early commercial lead
of drive
with its Prius model also helped
Control system for a it to build its ‘hybrid’ brand. Up
US hybrid car including until recently, only hybrids sold by
9 2002 Honda
6,943,460 cylinder deactivation
Toyota, or its licensees Ford and
Nissan, featured the capacity to


The technology field of
hybrid cars is still relatively
new, even if fast growing

drive by one or both of an electric patent application, which may decisions about which countries .
or conventional motor. Toyota’s prevent other patent applicants to file patents in.
early promotion of the dual-mode from claiming the same inventions
capability may have convinced in future patent applications. Role of independent developers
some consumers that all hybrids Even an ungranted Japanese Paice Corporation was founded
need this capability, possibly patent application can help in 1992 by Dr Alex Severinsky to
making commercialisation of secure freedom to operate in most develop hybrid drivetrains. Paice
alternative drivetrains – such as countries around the world, and started drivetrain development
the Honda drivetrain, where the save the cost of the translation of before Toyota and other Japanese
electric motors assist the petrol the Japanese patent application car companies got serious about
motor – more difficult. into a second language. hybrid cars around 1994. As a
Toyota’s hybrid vehicles have In contrast, the majority of result, Paice has been able to .
been a commercial success and non-Japanese patent applicants file some important patents,
“undoubtedly contribute to the had at least one foreign patent including four out of ten of the
success of the entire Toyota range filing. Many of these patents would most dominant patents identified
and help Toyota meet the CAFÉ have been drafted in English, in the list of key patents (see .
standards” (US corporate fuel which is commonly used in patent Table 3, page 12).
economy standard), as expressed applications around the world. Paice has attempted to litigate
in one of the Paice v Toyota three of these patents against
judgments11. On the other hand, No one-size-fits-all approach Toyota, and Toyota was held
Toyota hybrid vehicles were It should be noted that the to infringe Paice’s US patent
found in the same judgment to be strategy of achieving operating 5,343,97012. Damages for this
less profitable than other Toyota freedom and protecting worldwide infringement were assessed to be
vehicles, but still profitable. commercial interests by only $US4.3 million, plus $98 per car
Nonetheless, the technology . filing some of your patents in for future cars.
field of hybrid cars is still your home country may not work It is hard to assess if these
relatively new, even if fast in all industries. New cars are patents have paid off for Paice.
growing, and the long-term very capital intensive to develop, On the other hand, a royalty of
commercial value of Toyota’s and car companies may be $US98 per car sold should exceed
patent strategy may take many reluctant to develop new models $2 million per year in annual
years to be fully clear. where freedom to operate may revenue, and Paice is continuing
be restricted in even one or two legal action against Toyota. A
Patenting strategies major markets. However, in other more favourable outcome for Paice
A significant majority of Japanese industries where the development is possible.
patents, and even a sizeable cost is lower, competitors Independent developers have
minority of non-Japanese may be willing to develop and made significant returns in other
patents, were only filed in the commercialise new technologies technology areas, with the .
home country of the applicants. A even if some potential markets $US612 million paid by the makers
secondary benefit of filing patents are restricted by blocking patents. of the BlackBerry email device
is to secure ‘freedom to operate’ Patent owners need to consider to settle a patent dispute with an
by disclosing information in the these factors when making independent patent developer 11
Hybrid car technology

There is a worldwide
acceptance of the need to
reduce fuel consumption

providing an indication of what which would be related to a freedom to operate for their
is possible. Australian examples patent for the prevention of technologies via their prolific
of the success of independent software piracy. patent filing strategies and
developers include: resultant patents publication.
• CSIRO in enforcing its 1993 Wi-Fi Paice Corporation has not been .
patent against Hewlett-Packard the only company to allege . The role of the patent system
and other technology firms14. patent infringement by Toyota As previously noted, hybrid cars
• Uniloc, a company founded hybrids, but Paice is the only have been around almost as long
by Australian inventor Ric company where published as the car itself, and many of the
Richardson, in seeking a evidence of a successful outcome key concepts have been known
$US388 million patent exists (Table 3). for many years. However, the
infringement judgement One possible reason for the majority of car manufacturers did
against Microsoft. Richardson apparent poor success rate of not appear to regard hybrid cars
is believed to be entitled to a litigants against Toyota is that as commercially viable until after
sizable share of any payout, Toyota may have helped secure the lead taken by Toyota. Some
companies even then resisted the
growth of hybrid cars, until quite
Table 3: Known patent infringement litigation against Toyota Hybrid technologies recently17. Instead, non-Japanese
car manufacturers appear to split
Not known, but no between the development of high
Patent Patent Priority
available evidence profit margin but uneconomical
owner numbers year
of success SUVs in the US, and the
Infringement held of development of advanced diesel
US 5,343,970 1992
US 5,343,970 and cars in Europe.
US 6,209,672 1998
damages awarded. The price of oil was not
Corporation US 6,554,088 2001
Infringement not
especially high during the 1990s
found of other patents
when Toyota started its hybrid
US 6,481,516 1992 Patent held to be car program . Oil prices were
Field Hybrids
15 US 6,668,954 1992 abandoned during below $US20 barrel in 1994 (in
prosecution 2007 dollars), and were to fall to
a 50-year low around 1997 when
Conrad the Toyota Prius was first sold in
US 7,290,627 1992 Not known
Gardner Japan. Clearly something else was
driving Toyota and other Japanese
companies to invest so heavily in
US 5,067,932 1990 Not known hybrid car development. There are
three probable reasons:
1) High petrol taxes in Japan, due
EP 0414782 Infringement not to the Japanese government
Antonov PLC 1988
(US 5,309,778) held in German court wanting to reduce the
dependence of Japan on


Open innovation
An example of the history
of hybrid vehicles illustrates
the value of patents in the
commercialisation of new
inventions. In 197920, US fuel
economy enthusiast David
Martin developed a hybrid
imported oil19. While this system appears to have protected .
vehicle powered by a lawn
would have certainly driven the Toyota’s investment into hybrid
mower engine. A top speed
Japanese development of hybrid car technology.
of 90 mph (145 km/hr) and
cars, petrol was cheap in the .
a fuel economy of 75 mpg21
key US market at this time An eye for opportunity
(3.1 l/100 km) was claimed.
(a similar regulatory driven Worldwide oil prices started
There is no record of a patent
effect might be seen in other increasing strongly from 2002,
being filed by Martin, who
technologies as the price of and more recently there is a
made his plans freely available
emitting carbon dioxide rises worldwide acceptance of the need
in response to emission trading to reduce fuel consumption for shortly afterwards in a US
regulations being introduced environmental as well as . alternative lifestyle magazine22.
around the world). economic reasons. If Toyota had However, there appears to be
2) The potential to gain a market not heavily invested in hybrid . no commercial adoption of
advantage by developing the cars in the 1990s, it is likely that this technology within the US,
key technologies required to others companies would be doing as companies would have no
successfully commercialise so at the moment. However, competitive advantage.
hybrid cars, and then owning Toyota’s patent-supported
these developments via patents. initiative has probably brought ‘Lead Users’
3) The expectation that ownership forward the introduction of . ‘Lead User Innovation’ is
of these key fuel savings hybrid car technologies by defined by Von Hippel23 as
technologies would become around ten years, and competitive
innovation by an advanced
very valuable when world oil pressures may have also
user of a product who wants
prices rise from the lows of the encouraged other car companies
more from the product than
mid-1990s, which was a fair to either develop or license hybrid
their supplier is currently
long-term assumption to make technologies ahead of the current
providing. The lawn mower
during this period. oil price levels.
hybrid invented by David
There is a secondary effect of
Martin is an example of a
Toyota’s innovation and patent the patent system on innovation.
non-commercial lead user.
strategy appears to have been Nissan and Mitsubishi have
Demand by lead users can
successful in achieving these recently announced the
objectives. Toyota’s extensive commercialisation of pure electric also encourage new suppliers
patent portfolio has slowed car vehicles. Besides providing a to offer improvements of
manufacturers not licensing from unique marketing advantage, the the underlying product.
Toyota from selling dual mode production of electric vehicles We can see an excellent
vehicles, and enabled Toyota to may help these companies avoid example of this in the hybrid
capture three quarters of the US many of Toyota’s patents. In this using commercial plug-in
hybrid market. Toyota’s early and case, the patent system may help conversion kits offered by
strong patent position probably encourage overall innovation by new suppliers24, components
also helped it to avoid allegations forcing companies wanting to of which are even the subject
of patent infringement by other compete with market leaders to of patent applications25.
parties. Strategic use of the patent innovate in new areas. 13
Hybrid car technology

Formulate the right strategy • Where does your organisation Knowing where you sit in
So what lessons should companies sit in the industry? Are you relation to the above factors can
hoping to innovate in the clean a ‘primary’ supplier to the in turn help suggest an optimal IP
technology space draw from the consumers in the industry strategy, as illustrated in Figure 9.
strategies of Toyota and other (for example, a car company These strategies are based on the
companies in the hybrid car in the hybrid car industry)? apparent strategies used by some
industry? One way of considering this Alternatively, are you a of the companies in the hybrid car
is that companies or organisations secondary supplier (for field profiled in this article.
developing IP strategies need to example, either supplying The implications for innovators
consider the following factors: products to the primary are clear. Companies wishing to
• How does the technology suppliers, such as a component succeed in commercialising new
being developed compare to supplier to the car companies, technologies need to understand
the technology being used or or a supplier of ancillary where they sit with respect to their
patented by the industry leaders? products and services to the competitors patent and technology
Are you ahead of or behind the consumers of the primary portfolios, and to fully understand
leaders? If you are not sure of supplier, such as supplying . their competitors as opposed to
this, a sophisticated patent search plug-in kits and improved their own business strategy. This can
may help you understand your batteries to existing owners of help them choose an appropriate
position further. Toyota Prius cars). IP strategy. Failure to understand
how companies compare to their
competitors may lead to wasted
Figure 9: Recommended IP strategies depend on technology and industry position investment, infringement and a
lack of commercial success.
Toyota Paice
Implications for Australian
Ahead of
leading File broad patents ahead companies
technologies File early and file often
of big players In April 2009, the Australian
Federal Government launched
in relation the Green Car Innovation Fund,
- Carefully review - Develop IP for product
to leading which will provide $1.3 billion
technologies infrigement risks improvements not supplied
- Try to push technology by main players, but sought over ten years for car companies
into new directions by lead users
- Acquire or license from - Understand infringement and suppliers operating in
leading technology leaders risks Australia for projects that
‘significantly reduce fuel
GM, Ford... Suppliers of Prius consumption and/or greenhouse
plug-in kits
gas emissions of passenger
motor vehicles’.
Primary: direct Secondary: suppliers to direct
suppliers of primary suppliers or consumers of This study would suggest that
products or services products or services
car companies and suppliers who
Degree of industry engagement plan to invest in projects related to
hybrid cars consider the significant


3. Although government incentives have recently increased. US President Obama
wants national fuel efficiency to increase by 5% each year from 2012 to 2016.
The UK government has confirmed it will offer from £2000 to £5000 to purchasers
of electric and hybrid cars, while the Japanese government has introduced
inducements worth around $US4000 per purchased car.
4. Stem cell patents: a landscape analysis, Antoinette F Konski & Doris J F
number of patents already filed in Spielthenner, Nature Biotechnology Volume 27 Number B, August 2009.
this area. Of note, this study only 6.
identified 271 hybrid car patents 25616.html
7. According to hybrid “In 1994, Akihiro Wada, then executive vice
filed in Australia (and with a mere
president of Toyota, set a challenge before the project’s engineers: to double the
23 of these filed by Australian fuel efficiency compared with a conventional vehicle. That was difficult enough.
applicants). However, it’s likely On top of that, Toyota’s president at the time, Hiroshi Okuda, told the group to
complete its work years ahead of schedule, in order to introduce the vehicle in
that any invention of commercial 1997, the year the Kyoto Protocol was adopted at the UN conference on climate
value developed in Australia change.” See
would attract export interest, and 8.
hence the developers of these 9.
inventions would need to consider 10. The difference between the number of patents quoted by Toyota and the number
the extensive number of hybrid car of patents identified in this paper will be caused by 1) our patent search finding
patents related to any aspect of hybrid vehicles rather than just the drivetrain
patents filed outside of Australia technology, and 2) finding patents filed by Toyota that may not be commercialised
as well as within Australia. in their Prius hybrid vehicles.
11. Paice v Toyota Order (E.D. Texas April 17, 2009), see
Need to know more? IPWatchPaiceLLCvToyotaMotorsCorp.aspx
13. The $98 figure was assessed as being about 25% of the profit made by
Griffith Hack is pleased to discuss the Toyota in each hybrid drive train (less the profit made in each engine, see
details of this study and other exciting
work it is doing to promote the benefits 14.
of clean and sustainable technology IP. 15.
16. Former GM employee Ted Louckes, now employed by Paice Corporation, claimed
To learn more about this study, please in 2001 in reference to his former industry experience, ‘It’s accepted in the industry
that hybrids are environmental band aids and economic disasters’. ‘Saviors or
contact Mike Lloyd, Griffith Hack’s .
Snake Oil Salesmen? – Paice Corp – Hyperdrive, hybrid vehicle technology’
IP Portfolio Management Consultant, (Christopher A. Sawyer, Automotive Design & Production, November 2001): http://
on (03) 9243 8315 or .
17. Robert Lutz, then GM’s vice chairman of product development, claimed in 2004,
“It just doesn’t make environmental or economic sense to try to put an expensive
dual-powertrain system into less expensive cars which already get good mileage”.
To use patent data to determine
technology trends in your industry, 18.
please contact George Mokdsi, . 19. The Clean Industrial Revolution, Ben McNeil, Allen and Unwin 2009, page 178
Griffith Hack’s Information Services
Manager, on (02) 9925 5975 or . 21. Which still compares favourably with the 50 mpg claimed for the 2009 Toyota Prius.
To subscribe to future publications David-Arthurs-Hybrid-Electric-car.aspx
23. See Von Hippel on Democratising Innovation (2005),
related to clean technologies, .
email Griffith Hack at . 24. 25. US company, A123 Systems Inc., has filed patent applications for improved
batteries, some of which are provided as part of a Toyota Prius plug-in conversion
Visit to learn kit offered by its subsidiary Hymotion, see
more about protecting clean and
sustainable technologies. 15