Standards in Automotive Sector:-
Impact of Patents on its Development
With the increased awareness and focus on safety systems in the automotive domain, it is imperative for regulatory authorities to not only bring in the latest technologies but also ensure reachability and affordability for all. However, the patents related to the latest safety features concentrate in the hands of a few technology leaders, thus rendering the technology access costly and scarce. In such a scenario, adapting principles of SEPs and their permit of use in FRAND conditions as in the telecom domain would create a symbiotic relationship between the technology producers and end-users. The first part of this paper deals with studying the relevant patent filing activities to sensitize the innovation happing in the field of automotive engineering in general and automotive safety in particular. The second part focuses on standards and its establishment process in India and its global context in terms of harmonization. The third part deals with the gap in the operation of Indian Standard establishing authorities and the Indian Patent system. This paper concludes by arguing that it is essential to adopt a cross-functional team to horizontally utilize the best of learnings of the telecom domain in terms of licensing SEPs under FRAND terms.
Patents and Standards in the Automotive Sector:-
There has been a remarkable shift in the vehicle safety systems over the last 40 years, thanks to the increasing investigation of the injury criteria tolerance withstood by riders and pedestrians.4 One of the most critical concerns is providing vehicle safety at an affordable cost to the users in the ever-growing competitive automotive market. The significant driving factor for increasing focus on automotive safety systems in India, is its increasing population, rising middle class and increase in vehicle population and access to better roads.5 India’s rapid annual growth with a Compounded Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) of 3.1%, 5.4%, 5.6% and 10.2% for the years 1970-80, 1980-90, 1990-2000 and 2000-10, respectively has pushed India to urbanize and modernize its roads and allied infrastructure rapidly markets but also in India too. This is evident from the argument that innovation, which is mostly secured by patents, turn to standards over standard making deliberations in India and elsewhere.
Standard Making Bodies and Bureau of Indian Standards:-
The BIS is the national standard body in India. It is the primary agency responsible for the overall development of all the activities associated with the process of standardization, marking, and certification of goods and services. The standards and certifications developed by the BIS, apart from benefitting the consumers and the industry, also support various public policies in areas such as safety, consumer protection, etc. Of all the 24 Standard-setting bodies in India,8 the BIS is the most prominent agency that addresses the majority of industrial sectors in India. The BIS sets voluntary standards that are made compulsory by the Government of India in multiple instances. The functioning of BIS could be summed under9 various internal and external areas, including providing laboratory services, training, and publicity, among other activities, including the formulation of standards.
Global Standard Harmonisation in for Automotive Sector:-
While developing standards at the national level are important, considering the local requirements and needs, it is also important that the locally developed standards be in coherence with international norms and precedence. The chief agency that looks after is the World Forum for Harmonisation of Vehicle Regulations (WP.29), which comes under the institutional framework of the United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE).15 It comprises globally harmonized performance-related requirements and procedures for tests They strive to the latest technology at a fraction of cost, and for the technology producers who license the patents at nominal fees and reaping benefits in volumes. However, the usage of licensing SEPs under FRAND has not been critically looked into domains beyond telecommunications and associated areas. For example, making standards-based on critical technologies in the automotive industry, particularly for safety systems, could have a significant positive impact on a large user base as well as may reap benefits for technology producers. However, there exists a gap owing to the following conditions :-
(i) Both the verticals, i.e., IPO and AISC, work under different ministries of the Government of India.
(ii) The motives and goals of both organizations are different in terms of their objective and working nature. For instance, IPO works on the promotion of innovation culture and the consequent protection of intellectual property in the country. The IPO acts as the nodal agency for patent-related laws and regulations, while the AISC assists CMVR-TSC for framing of automotive standards.
(iii) There is no-correlation on the framing of standards by taking into consideration the associated IPR assets of participating organizations and their dominant positions in terms of patent holdings by various automotive companies. For example, on one side, automotive safety standards such as Antilock Brake Systems (ABS) and Combined Brake.
Lack of coherent systems wherein both the domains of IP as well as automotive safety systems as in the automotive industry are detrimental in providing a cost-effective solution to existing safety issues. This needs of imminent addresses of overhauling the regulatory framework of establishing standards in India that would have a cross-functional action to fulfil today’s demands of going in tandem with cross-functional inventions and consequent regulatory changes especially for automotive safety systems. This would demand of establishing systems and processes that would create a cross functional team utilising the principles of patent law and safety standard establishment system to come out with a solution wherein the best learning of licensing essential safety related patents under FRAND terms could be utilised. In other words, there needs to be a system wherein the learning of SEP licensing under FRAND terms could be horizontally deployed to other areas such as automotive safety systems As India moves ahead in adopting better technologies and systems with the implementation of new automotive safety norms, it is imperative that the technologies associated with such solutions/proposals need to be available in a more comprehensive, more accessible, and cost-effective manner. Further, it is also essential to maintain a balance and motivation in terms of commercial profit for innovators to provide such solutions. Hence, there is an urgent need for formulating a cross functional arrangement in India, which would further engage technology providers, suppliers, and end-users to effectively utilize each other leading to adaptation of such safety norms in a more comprehensive and much cost-effective manner.