What are the legal costs to make a car?

Discussion in 'Cars in General' started by bremics, Aug 15, 2019.

  1. bremics

    bremics

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    In terms of patents and such. I know seat belts aren't patented, but what about airbags, traction control, etc.

    A rather random question but I'm suddenly a bit curious lol.
     
  2. Danoff

    Danoff Premium

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    It depends on what you mean by "patents and such". Filing one patent application will probably run you on the order of $5k through a standard law firm (not like the strip mall variety), and if you're a micro-entity (this is based on company income I believe), you're looking at something like $200 in fees to the USPTO. If it gets through in the first round (it won't), you start paying issue fees $250 and maintenance fees (every so many years you have to pay to keep the patent alive). If it doesn't get through in the first round, you pay attorney fees (couple grand) to file a response, and then that gets denied, and you pay another $200 to the PTO to try again, and another round of attorney's fees (couple more grand). I'm guessing about $10k if you have a good invention and are aggressive with prosecution.

    Seat belts absolutely could be patented if you improved the technology. Nothing can be patented (with a utility patent, which is usually what people talk about when they talk about patents) if you don't improve the technology.

    If you're a small-time person you might be able to get an attorney to do it for free as pro-bono work, but you need an invention.

    The above is if you mean that you've invented something in the car technology and you're seeking protection for your invention. But perhaps you didn't mean that, perhaps you meant that you want to use someone else's patented technology (like Ford or whatever) - so that you can start using their parts for your car. That doesn't cost you anything at all if you just buy the parts from them. You buy their parts, and then use them. But if you want to make your own parts and not pay Ford, well then the price could be infinite. In other words, they might not let you, and there might be virtually no amount of money you could offer them to get them to let you. On the otherhand, they might license it out all over the place. That's entirely up to the company and it's going to vary wildly based on the patent you want to license.

    There are tons of legal costs that are outside of IP. You've got some kind of regulatory compliance legal work I'm sure, plus crash testing, and then legal work for setting up the corporate entity (are you going to incorporate?), complying with corporate reporting, filing corporate tax returns, possibly quarterly statements... and you'll want to create some kind of liability shelter for your personal assets. You also might want to register a trademark.

    Anyway, I'm shooting in the dark here. What did you have in mind?
     
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  3. bremics

    bremics

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    Sorry for the late response, it's more of hypothetical question of, if I wanted to build and sell my own car, how much would it cost it terms of patents?

    Like, if I decided to build my own engine, is there patents on the specific parts? Could Toyota sue and say "hey, that camshaft is rather similar to ours" etc.

    Like, side airbags and ABS are newish things yeah? Like they were both options on my mom's 2003 Neon, is ABS patented by someone else and would I have to apply/ask for permission and pay to use ABS?

    It was a stray thought when I realized how many features/options are shared amongst car companies and in terms of the tech industry... It's like any stray thought is patented and any similar technology is chased after hard.
     
  4. Danoff

    Danoff Premium

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    What do you mean by build? Assemble from off the shelf parts? Because if you do that, no they cannot sue - you bought the parts. Legally. There are two ways to obtain legal access to something that is patented (and is still under patented protection, patents only last 20 years from filing). The first way, is to buy it from the company. In other words, order the part off of Amazon, or straight from a BMW parts vendor for example. In this case, the cost of the patent is baked into the sale price, because you paid the company for the part.

    The second way, is to buy it from the company, but differently. In the second way, you pay for access to the patent directly. This is "licensing". You come to an agreement with the corporate lawyers of, for example BMW. You hash out a contract, and you pay them for the ability to make and sell their idea. Some people don't actually make and sell anything, they just patent the invention, and then license other people to make it. In some cases, that's a patent "troll", but not always.

    Patents are not enforced by the police (unlike copyright). They're enforced by the patent holder. So if you stole Toyota's idea, and then walked up to the police and said "Toyota has a patent on this, and I made it and am selling it anyway". They'd be like "uh.... why are you in my squad car, and how did you even get in... that door was locked!". You could even ship a detailed explanation to the FBI of your patent infringement, and they'd ignore it (presumably to chase after copyright offenders). It's Toyota that has to enforce it. It's Toyota that has to send you a cease and desist letter, and sue you in civil court.

    The reason I bring this up is that if you're just making this for yourself, there is no way that anyone is going to know (probably including you) whether you violated any patents. Because they'd need to actually buy a copy and tear it down in order to figure out how it worked to see if you infringed their patent. And what's more, they'd have to actually care to spend the money to do that. Which they won't, if you're just making it for you.

    And what's even more, they won't recoup any damages in court if you were offending, because you didn't sell it and make millions off of their invention. Now, if you put your instructions on youtube and a bunch of people start doing it, you might raise some eyebrows.

    Getting back to your question, Toyota wouldn't sue and say "that camshaft is rather similar to ours". They'd sue and say "that camshaft has an elongated protrusion which is rotatably attached to a crossmember wherein the crossmember has a circular cross section with a gap blah blah blah just like our patent claims say". Actually they'd start out with a cease and desist letter and potentially follow it by suing for damages (lost revenue from the patent).


    It's likely far more complicated than that. ABS is likely patented by everyone (or was, and then expired 20 years after filing). I'd guess that BMW has a suite of ABS patents, and Ford has a suite of ABS patents, and Toyota has a suite of ABS patents, and maybe Volkswagen licenses the BMW ABS patents in the US, but not in Germany where they do something else.

    If you invented a new ABS system, what you might want to do before selling it is to try to patent it. The USPTO would search your invention and return a bunch of relevant patents to you (with an explanation for why you're not entitled to a patent), and you could look through those to see whether you infringe someone else. If you think you don't, you narrow the scope of your claims and try again until you get a patent issued. You'd want an attorney to look through the relevant patent documents to see whether you infringed (or if they were expired, or not relevant in the US or whatever). Attorneys can also do this "clearance" search for you.

    What tends to happen is that someone gets a big valuable patent on a new technology, and then others pile on with tiny modifications to it and try to clear the bar of obviousness. Which is not as easy as it sounds.

    Actually what tends to happen is that you file a patent application, spend a few thousand dollars prosecuting it with the USPTO until you get one issued, and then you try to sell it, and it doesn't net you any money, and you abandon it. Most patents just end up abandoned, like mine.
     
    Last edited: Aug 17, 2019
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  5. opelgt1969

    opelgt1969 Premium

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    Take the "new" stair tailgates on the trucks nowdays GMC started this several years ago "top secret" at time, now it seems all trucks have the same thing.
     
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  6. daan

    daan Moderator

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    There's bound to be a lot of patents that aren't even owned by the car companies. Bosch makes ABS for example.

     
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