The results of a global study into patent activity in the automotive sector show a marked return to product innovation following a period of decreased activity during the late 1990s says Thomson Derwent.
From 1994 – 98, patent activity in this sector enjoyed a yearly 34% average rise in innovation. This could largely be attributed to the rapid influx of new technology into this sector, such as throttle enhancements to improve engine management. Additionaly, Korean manufacturers and a number of smaller manufacturers started developing smaller, more affordable vehicles.
Despite developments in headlight technology such as halogen and high intensity discharge lights, the last two years of the 20th century saw patent activity fall sharply by over 25%. This reflects the decrease in confidence in the industry as established manufacturers, such as Rover, collapsed under tough competition.
However, the results in 2000 and 2001 illustrate an upturn, with an 8.7% rise in innovation and R&D investment. Derwent says that it expects this trend to continue through to 2005.
Based on the number of basic patents filed over the last five years, the Derwent research reveals Hyundai, Toyota, Honda and Volkswagen remain the most active global players in term of R&D and patenting activity.
Early research into patenting activity in 2002 shows continued investment in transmission, and clutch and gear systems as manufacturers strive to build easier to drive and more fuel efficient vehicles. However, new technological developments are already starting to come to the fore, with manufacturers such as Nissan investing heavily in distance to measurement and anti collision systems.