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Domestic auto-makers speed up patent filings

Abhigyan Chand  |  New Delhi 

Faced with growing competition from global automotive companies, domestic auto-makers are furiously patenting their technology as a way of defending themselves against the competition.
This is reflected in the fact that the number of patents filed by the six top local auto makers in the country jumped 85 per cent in just 18 months since January 2005 against the 10-year period between Januray 1995 and December 2004, according to data from Evalueserve, a firm that tracks patent filings.
In contrast, like Maruti Suzuki, Hero Honda and Ashok Leyland (which has a tie-up with Iveco) that depend on their global partners for the bulk of their technology account for just 2 per cent of all patents filed.
"Automobile realise that foreign models will find ready takers in the Indian market and falling import tariffs are lowering the price barrier. With increasing competition, patented technology that offers new features can help save market share," said Vaishali Jajoo, an auto analyst with Angel Broking, adding: "In the future, will use patents on diesel, gas and hybrid models to tap market share."

R&D ON THE FAST TRACK

Companies

Jan 1995 to Dec 2004

Jan 2005
onwards

Total
applications

Granted
patents

Success
%

Tata Motors

NA

NA

28

17

60.71

Bajaj Auto

30

23

53

12

22.64

TVS Motors

39

92

131

26

20

M & M

8

22

30

4

13.33

Ashok Leyland

0

5

5

0

""

Hero Honda

0

0

0

0

""

Maruti Udyog

0

1

1

0

""

Total

77

143

248

69

""

Source: Evalueserve and auto companies

The overall success rate between patents filed and those that were eventually granted "" a reflection of in-house research and development ability "" is also impressive.
The number of patents granted to the major auto makers "" Bajaj, TVS, Mahindra & Mahindra (M&M) and Tata Motors "" as a ratio to the number of patents filed is 24.38 per cent.
Among the companies,Chennai-based TVS Motors, which was recently accused of infringing patent rights by Bajaj Auto, is the leader in terms of the sheer volume of patent filings in India.
According to data from Evalueserve, the company has filed 131 patents to the Indian Patent Office since January 1995, of which 70 per cent have been filed since January 2005, speeding up after its joint venture with Suzuki ended in 2001.
However, when it comes to the success rate, Tata Motors takes the top honours, with the ratio between patents filed and issued at 60 per cent.
"Our expenditure on research and development (R&D) has always been over 2 per cent of turnover. The frequency of filing patents will also increase in the future,"said the company, which is the maker of the first fully indigenously built car, Indica.
The company's expenditure on R&D was Rs 797 crore in 2006-07, a 67 per cent increase over the previous year.
In terms of the success rate of the number of patents filed and applications accepted, Tata Motors is followed by Bajaj Auto, with a success rate of 22 per cent on 53 filings since January 1995.
Among the prominent patents to its name is the DTS-i technology (Digital Twin Spark-Injection) that powers its flagship brand Pulsar. Earlier this year, Bajaj Auto had introduced two variants of this technology.
TVS Motors comes third with a success rate of 20 per cent on 131 applications filed over the same period. The company executives refused to talk on any patent-related subject owing to the dispute with Bajaj.
The company has used technologies like VTi (variable transmission ignition) and RTR (racing throttle response) in its motorcycles. However, the company said it had kept a minimum benchmark level of 2.5 per cent of total sales on R&D.
Utility vehicle manufacturer M&M is in the fourth position with a 13.33 per cent success rate on the 30 applications it has filed since January 2005.
"Our patents are mainly in the area of engines, ergonomics and thermal management. Intellectual property rights (IPR) will be the backbone of M&M as our range of products, platforms and systems are wider now. Personally, I have four patents issued in my name in the US, Europe and Japan," said Arun Jaura, senior vice-president (R&D and global product development), M&M.
The company, which owns the Scorpio sports utility vehicle brand, currently spends less than 2 per cent of its sales on R&D.

First Published: Tue, September 25 2007. 00:00 IST
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