Litigation Activity Update: Automotive Sector

The Automotive sector has seen a significant increase in litigation over the last several years. Unified studied litigation against the largest Automotive OEMs and Suppliers from 2012 to 2016. Almost all the growth can be attributed to NPEs.

Tables 1 & 2: Although Patent Litigation Decreased in 2016, NPEs Remain Responsible for the Majority of New Cases in the Automotive Sector.

In 2016, NPEs filed 88 new cases in the Automotive sector - a slight decline from the 135 and 98 new cases filed in 2014 and 2015 respectively. Although NPE assertions have decreased, these cases still comprise the majority of new patent disputes in the Automotive sector. In 2016, over 77% of all Automotive litigation is attributable to NPEs.

Tables 3 & 4: Safety and Car Multimedia/Infotainment are the Most Frequently Litigated Technologies in the Automotive Sector.

Between 2012 and 2016, Safety and Car Multimedia technologies have dominated the majority of patent litigation in the Automotive Sector. Together, Safety and Car Multimedia/Infotainment technologies account for more than 68% of all Automotive litigation in 2016. For a more detailed explanation of these categories, see Unified's Automotive Zone definition linked here.

Table 5: Top 10 Automotive Sector Companies Most Litigated Against 2012-2016*

  1. Toyota (39)
  2. Hyundai (36)
  3. Ford (32)
  4. Honda (31)
  5. Nissan (30)
  6. General Motors (28)
  7. Mercedes-Benz (26)
  8. BMW (25)
  9. Kia (24)
  10. Volkswagen (22)

*Results for companies most litigated against include first-named defendants only.

Table 6: Top 10 Automotive Companies with the Most IPRs 2012-2016

  1. TRW Automotive (50)
  2. Toyota (37)
  3. Ford (35)
  4. Mercedes-Benz (25)
  5. Volkswagen (23)
  6. Honda (16)
  7. Hyundai (16)
  8. FCA / Chrysler (11)
  9. Nissan (10)
  10. Bosch (8)

Table 7: Top 10 NPE Litigants in the Automotive Sector 2012-2016

  1. American Vehicular Sciences (52)
  2. Beacon Navigation (36)
  3. Cruise Control Technologies (28)
  4. Peter Wingard (24)
  5. Manitto Technologies (21)
  6. Signal IP (20)
  7. Delaware Radio Technologies (17)
  8. Norman IP (17)
  9. NovelPoint Tracking (13)
  10. Joao Control and Monitoring Systems (13)


Unified looked at all major Automotive manufacturers and the top 10 Automotive suppliers by revenue since 2012.
Total number of reported cases can vary. Unified made its best attempt to eliminate mistaken or duplicative filings.
Statistics include litigations initiated by NPEs or Declaratory Judgments (DJs) initiated by operating companies against NPEs.
Unified strives to accurately identify NPE through all available means, such as court filings, public documents, and product documentation.


Non Practicing Entity (NPE) = Company which derives the majority of its total revenue from Patent Licensing activities.
Operating Company or Op. Co. = Company which derives most of its total revenue from Product Sales or Services. Could be an SME or a large company.
NPE (Patent Assertion Entities) = Entity whose primary activity is licensing patents and acquired most of its patents from another entity
NPE (Small Company) = Entity whose original activity was providing products and services, but now is primarily focused on monetizing its own patent portfolio.
NPE (Individual) = Entity owned of controlled by an individual inventor who is primarily focused on monetizing inventions patents by that individual inventor.