Blog Post

Gasp! Car Companies Dominating Cleantech Patents

We’ve been known to chide Detroit for being slow at innovation, and laud all those Silicon Valley startups out there, but according to data on the number of granted patents in the first quarter of 2008, car companies are actually leading in terms of intellectual property. New York-based intellectual property law firm Heslin Rothenberg Farley & Mesiti puts together the so-called Clean Energy Patent Growth Index that follows granted patents for cleantech, and the firm says that in the first quarter of this year, automotive companies dominated the top 10.

According to the data, Honda led the way with 16 patents, followed by a second-place tie between General Motors and General Electric, with 11 patents. The fourth, fifth and sixth spots were claimed by Nissan, Toyota and Hyundai. Ford came in tenth. It’s good to see the car companies, with their deep pockets, actually leading the way. Whether that means they’re charging ahead on implementing this technology, and not just filing for the patents, remains to be seen.

Overall, the number of cleantech patents granted in the first quarter of this year were actually down very slightly from the last quarter of 2007. While there were 220 patents granted in the first quarter of 2008, 227 were granted in the fourth quarter of 2007. And as we pointed out for the fourth-quarter 2007 numbers, for some reason fuel cells continue to dominate patents, even though the technology has yet to gain real traction. Perhaps this is where all the car companies are continuously trying to innovate.

This quarter also saw the number of wind patents continue to rise, while the number of alternative vehicle and solar patents dropped. Patents for tidal and wave energy as well as geothermal were way up. In 2008 and 2009, we’re hoping some of that upcoming federal green regulation will spur a significant rise in the number of cleantech patents. As we pointed out before, believe it or not, regulation sometimes precedes innovation.

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