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Google Transportation Patents Your Rights Online

Who 'Owns' the Google Driverless Car IP? 129

Posted by Soulskill
from the patent-lawyers-are-already-salivating dept.
theodp writes "Google co-founder Sergey Brin recently revealed that he is now leading Google's efforts to ready a driverless car for the consumer market, but one big, publicly-unanswered question is: Who exactly owns the intellectual property behind the highly-touted vehicles? To develop the Google Car, the company said it tapped 'the very best engineers from the DARPA Challenges,' a series of autonomous vehicle races organized by the U.S. government which provided university teams with millions in development funding and millions more in prizes. Last year, Carnegie Mellon reported that 8 of the 15-member Google Car team had current or past ties to DARPA Challenge participants CMU and Stanford. Whether Google's sponsorship of the Stanford Racing Team and CMU Tartan Racing entitled it to the IP is unclear. Clouding matters further is that key Google Car Team members are listed as inventors of autonomous car technology in pending patents assigned to the likes of General Motors and Toyota, and it was reported that the credit (and liability) for another key team member's successful robotic, autonomous Prius project was his-and-his-alone, not Google's. Could another party lay claims to the technology, or does Google have all of its IP ducks in a row on this one?"
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Who 'Owns' the Google Driverless Car IP?

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  • The other question should who wants own the rights?

    As all it will take is 1 death or serious injury for the some one to get sued and maybe lose millions + there may also be some criminal liability that may also fall on the people who coded, run the systems, build the system, linked this system to the car and so on.

    • by h4rr4r (612664)

      I am not a scientist nor a statistician, but I am fairly certain more than one person has died in an automobile accident. In fact some died in accidents that were the result of poor car design.
      How would this be any different?

      • Because in this case it would be Google's fault if someone dies. If someone dies because of his own hand then he can only blame himself, but it's much worse if you kill someone. Of course, this only applies if it wasn't some other person that caused it, but the point still stands.
        • by h4rr4r (612664) on Monday October 31, 2011 @06:03PM (#37900956)

          You missed the part about deaths occurring due to poor engineering in automobiles. This has already happened and the company involved still exists.

          • Yeah, it's even more than poor engineering. It's poor engineering that the company knew about and then calculated how many people would likely die due to it [and how much they would have to pay out] versus how much it would cost to fix for everyone, and found it was cheaper to let a bunch of random people die than fix the problem.

            • by coredog64 (1001648) on Tuesday November 01, 2011 @06:07AM (#37905304)
              Hate to break it to you, but we're not living out "Fight Club". There are many different alleged "smoking gun" memos, but the one I'm most familiar with is the Ford memo. I won't tell you what you think it said, but I will tell you what it really said: NHTSA allowed that safety improvements that would cost more than $200K per life saved were not cost effective. In 1973, NHTSA wanted to change safety standards to reduce the posibility of a post-rollover fire. Ford then wrote and circulated a memo that showed that the compliance costs for that change were 3x the NHTSA threshold and should be opposed. Now for me, personally, an appropriate regime would be to have the auto manufacturers put a notice on the steering wheel, to be removed by the first owner, that says "We're insured to $X dollars in the event of death due to a design flaw." If that number is too low for you, buy a different car.
              • by PoopCat (2218334)
                Why the first-owner-only warning? Resale would-be purchasers deserve the same warning. Put it in the same place as the airbag warning and prevent its removal.
        • Flip side: With these cars, any accidents that occur have extensive telemetry data recorded including stuff like throttle, brakes and steering, but also data from cameras and laser data.
          So in the court room the data can be played back in 3d with complete accuracy.

        • There is no links to make between responsability and IP rights. If Google decides to produce, market and sell a driverless car, it doesn't mean they need to own all the IP rights on the technology inside the product. Most car manufacturers don't own all the IP rights for the technology they include in their cars. The main point here, they are selling these cars, so they are making money from them and then they are responsible. It has nothing to do with IP ownership. You are responsible for what you sell and
        • Any accident related to this will result in a huge fishing expedition for deep pockets. Even an unsuccessful fishing expedition will bankrupt all the graduate students in the crosshairs.

        • Because in this case it would be Google's fault if someone dies. If someone dies because of his own hand then he can only blame himself...

          For now perhaps, but once the technology matures we could just as easily hold manual car manufacturers responsible for any accidents caused by human error. Seat belts and airbags are required safety features now, I imagine one day automated driving will be as well.

      • Because human error car deaths are understood and expected. We live in a culture where the media see's a story, that will sell if they blow it out of proportion, followed by a wave of ambulance chaser lawyers etc... It dosn't matter if the cars are less then 1% as likely as a human to mess up, what matters is the 1% of situations where they might mess up that a human would probably not have. People were well adjusted to the risks and problems of normal cars, back when lawsuits over stupid crap were much les
        • by neokushan (932374)

          Except this kind of thing has been dealt with in the aviation industry before. There are many, many incidents where pilots override the autopilot and cause a crash. The same will happen here - many incidents where people who "know better" try to do something stupid and crash the car, when an automated system would have protected them. If an accident occurs, the telemetry can be used to determine why it happened and prevent it in future. If something really horrendous happens, then a recall will be issued wh

          • by h4rr4r (612664)

            You left out the best part, we can start drinking in cars! No more expensive taxi rides, just have the car take you home after a night at the bar.

            Think of all the lives saved by DWI no longer being a problem.

            • by neokushan (932374)

              WTF are you talking about? The best part is that we can have actual working JONNY CABS! Pay the fare or it'll TRY TO MURDER YOU. That's the future I want to live in.

              I also presume it'll somehow lead to women with three breasts. Definitely the future I want to live in.

            • by adolf (21054)

              Forget the ride home from the bar:

              The trip from Ohio to Florida would be far more pleasurable if I were able to be continually drunk during that time. (Actually, it is more pleasurable, but I don't dare discuss it because I'm not sure if the statue of limitations is up yet.

          • but who will pay for the software update will that be dealer only? with a big fee? What about if you need a new Computer? only the dealer can swap the system out?

            Will they find a way to lock out jiffy lube, non dealer repair shops, 3rd party radios?. Updates need to be free and if a system part needs to be changed make it a recall and make so it is free to swap it out.

            • Magnuson-Moss, which has been on the books for nearly 40 years, already makes most of what you are pissing and moaning about illegal.
              • by Coren22 (1625475)

                That hasn't stopped the manufacturers from having custom codes in the ODB-II interface.

      • by iiiears (987462)

        Time for a 'shrink wrap license"?

    • You can't sue. You broke the seal on the EULA when you opened the car door.

      EULA Rule Number One: "No suing!"

      "The producer of this vehicle is not responsible if it starts driving like someone out of "Death Race 2000"

      "You bought it, you used it . . . it's your problem now . . ."

    • by Coren22 (1625475)

      The current laws in the US handle this already. The Google car requires a person in the driver seat who is paying attention, as the driver is ultimately responsible for what the car does.

  • It is almost like Google designed this car to be the epitome of the worst patent law could do. That it has ties to every company possible. I mean, what next? Google throws in a built in iPod to drag apple in?

    • It would be hilarious to see if this gets slammed with injunctions from all over. Then Google can go to Congress and go, "So, what's this 'spurring innovation' crap? See this? Autonomous car. Pretty innovative, huh? Oh well, off to the crusher cause it can't get out of the red flag lap of legalese."

      Wouldn't happen, but I can dream...

    • No, they will put an Android tablet into it and get sued by Apple and Microsoft through those means...

      And thinking of Microsoft, does Microsoft have patents with their Microsoft Sync thing that could bring this in even more?

      P.S. I actually kinda think this is cool in a science-fiction way, but am otherwise completely neutral about most of anything to do with it until it actually becomes realistic to get a car like this...

    • That would probably tie in Creative too. Last I heard, Apple was still paying $1 per iPod to Creative for their 'invention' of the 3-tier menu for music: Artist, Album, Song.
  • "does Google have all of its IP ducks in a row on this one?"

    How on earth should we know this?
    And why should a customer care?

    • by hedwards (940851) on Monday October 31, 2011 @06:24PM (#37901142)

      Because there's nothing worse than disorganized ducks.

    • by hawguy (1600213)

      "does Google have all of its IP ducks in a row on this one?"

      How on earth should we know this?

      By asking?

      And why should a customer care?

      So the company that implements your $50,000 driverless car isn't sued out of existence by the company that holds a key patent to the system.

  • Why wouldn't they? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Baloroth (2370816) on Monday October 31, 2011 @06:01PM (#37900930)

    If the team members are working for and/ or with Google on the project, Google can use their work on the project. Unless Google is using technology from peoples' work outside the team, there is no way a problem should arise. So, unless someone has proof that Google is in fact using work from people outside the development team or work that the members clearly state falls outside what they are doing for Google, where is there a problem?

    For that matter, is this just Slashdot speculation or does one of those links actually point to a TFA (full of speculation)? Because I couldn't find one. Seriously, summaries are summaries. Don't try to turn them into not-quite-full articles themselves please Slashdot.

    Also, is this actually a question someone is answering? Again, I skimmed all the links and couldn't find it. Even the last link didn't (seem to) say anything about Levandowski (the unnamed "key" team member) claiming the IP was his-and-his alone (although I may have missed it.)

  • by Captain Spam (66120) on Monday October 31, 2011 @06:03PM (#37900948) Homepage

    Google co-founder Sergey Brin recently revealed that he is now leading Google's efforts to ready a driverless car for the consumer market, but one big, publicly-unanswered question is: Who exactly owns the intellectual property behind the highly-touted vehicles?

    In my opinion, it's a sad, sad reflection of our current technological atmosphere that "Who exactly owns the intellectual property behind the highly-touted vehicles?" is the big, publicly-unanswered question, far ahead of, say, "How is it going to work?", "What infrastructure will need to be in place for it to work?", "How much will it cost?", "What sort of services and/or functionality will it supply?", or "What's the underlying technology?", each of which are either vital considerations to the actual functioning of the car or just would be really really interesting and cool to know.

    Hell, the fact that it even rates above "What are the legal ramifications of such a device?" or more specifically "How are road laws going to change with these devices on the road?" paints a picture I don't think anyone commissioned.

    • by dunng808 (448849)

      Driverless cars just want to be free. Even more so for flying driverless cars ... free as a bird.

    • by lgarner (694957)
      Only in the Slashdot summary is this the "big" question.
    • Thing is, all those questions are secondary to the case of "Can this be brought to market or will it be injunctioned against for eternity by the courts as the patent quagmire is traversed?"

      If it never goes to market, who gives a toss what current road rules need to be changed?

    • by ShakaUVM (157947)

      >>Hell, the fact that it even rates above "What are the legal ramifications of such a device?"

      From people I know that work on driverless cars, liability issues are actually the #1 issue. I.e., who pays for Timmy's brain surgery when the first driverless Prius gets into a high-speed crash.

      As you say with our terrible IP laws, our society really is set up to not be able to think on the grand scale any more.

    • Ok. If a driverless car causes an accident, then the owner of the IP should be liable for the accident damages though...
  • Suppose a driverless car is caught speeding or running a red light? Who gets the ticket? The owner? The person who programmed the route? The manufacturer who programmed the car itself? Or do the standard laws of the road not apply to these vehicles at all? If I'm hit by one of these cars, do I get to sue somebody or am I responsible for all the medical bills myself?
    • by Belial6 (794905)
      Presumably if the car is speeding or running red lights, either the owner of the car has tampered with it and is liable, the company intentionally built the car to break the law and is liable, or it is a bug in the system and would be handle much the same way it would be handled the stop light equipment had a flaw that caused all of the lights to turn green at the same time. This would be a notification of the bug and someone fixing it if no one was injured, and a lawsuit if someone is.
    • by hedwards (940851)

      It's actually illegal to drive above the speed limit or below the speed limit in the US. The only exceptions for civilians are when conditions dictate that one must drive more slowly or when the flow of traffic is over the speed limit.

      The case of a car speeding or running a red light is almost certainly going to be less common than with drivers. The car would know ahead of time if it has time to stop for a yellow light and would push through if it didn't. Providing the cars aren't being hacked by the end us

      • by batkiwi (137781)

        "It's actually illegal to drive above the speed limit or below the speed limit in the US"

        This is incorrect for two reasons.
        1. The US doesn't have uniform driving laws
        2. I don't know of any state with such a law.

        An example from california law:
        http://dmv.ca.gov/pubs/vctop/d11/vc22400.htm [ca.gov]

        It is illegal to impede the normal flow of traffic, but it is not illegal to drive below the speed limit.

        • "It's actually illegal to drive above the speed limit or below the speed limit in the US"

          This is incorrect for two reasons.
          1. The US doesn't have uniform driving laws
          2. I don't know of any state with such a law.

          I'll give you point 1, but point 2 means you must live under a rock. Given that limits can be upper and lower, you must never have seen a minimum speed sign. Let me provide one: http://www.flickr.com/photos/thetruthabout/2727717062/ [flickr.com]

          I don't know how wide spread these are, but they definately have them across the river from me in Minnesota.

          • by batkiwi (137781)

            I didn't say no states have minimum limits, I said I don't know of any states for which the speed limit is ALSO a lower limit.

    • by hawguy (1600213)

      Suppose a driverless car is caught speeding or running a red light? Who gets the ticket? The owner? The person who programmed the route? The manufacturer who programmed the car itself? Or do the standard laws of the road not apply to these vehicles at all? If I'm hit by one of these cars, do I get to sue somebody or am I responsible for all the medical bills myself?

      Initially, the driver will get a ticket, because these "driverless" cars will be sold as "driver assisted" cars - the driver will still be expected to remain in control of the car.

      After years of refinement and demonstrated safe operation, the cars will be allowed to operate truly driverless, but by then the laws will have caught up.

      Perhaps by the time these cars are commonplace, having valid insurance will be enforced by the car itself - if you don't have an insurance plan, the car won't move. Making your q

      • by pipedwho (1174327)

        Perhaps by the time these cars are commonplace, having valid insurance will be enforced by the car itself - if you don't have an insurance plan, the car won't move. Making your question of who pays in an accident moot -- the insurance company pays.

        What's more likely to happen is that the cars will be sold 'pre-insured' (ie. insured by the manufacturer). This is because the probability of an 'at fault' collision being caused by the vehicle is unrelated to the skill/etc of the driver. Also, if the car causes an accident, the responsibility will end up pointing back to the manufacturer anyway - so it's pointless having the end user take out insurance if their insurance is just going to push the cost back to the manufacturers insurer.

        Insurance is require

  • by 0xdeadbeef (28836) on Monday October 31, 2011 @06:14PM (#37901038) Homepage Journal

    Why is Slashdot trying to create the impression of a scandal when there isn't one? What is theodp hoping to gain from his FUD?

  • by FrootLoops (1817694) on Monday October 31, 2011 @06:15PM (#37901054)

    Who 'Owns' the Google Driverless Car IP?

    Google, obviously. Since they have "the" IP address for all these driverless cars, how will drivers' private data be protected?!

  • that only america could care about. check out the rest of the developed world and most americans will find mass transit is the dominant means of personal conveyance.

    TL;DR: i already have a "driverless car." its called the subway.
    • The rich don't have to use subways. Having a car usually* results in greater options, comfort and autonomy.

      The rich sit in dachas and wonder how to herd the masses into concrete tenements. I think the goal should be to raise the standards of living of everyone.

      * I realize in some high traffic cities, getting around within the city is best done with public transit
    • by cbope (130292)

      Bang on the point. The real problem is that in America, mass transit is seen as transportation for people who can't afford a car. For the most part, mass transit in America sucks or is non-existent. Where I grew up it was the latter. If you didn't have a car, you were basically dependent on friends and family to take you places. Even sidewalks (for walking!) are very poorly implemented outside of most major cities. In rural areas like where I grew up they are also practically non-existent.

      Sadly, I don't see

      • Puhleez! What is necessary is density that Americans won't put up with and mass transit proponents who don't get pointless hard-ons for trains over busses. Mass transit makes sense in the dense cities that have always had mass transit (e.g. New York, Chicago). Mass transit in sprawling Phoenix or Seattle is just sowing seeds of transit hate.
      • by mjr167 (2477430)
        Don't forget the NIMBY folk. There have been several instances where someone has tried to put in a high speed rail line or whatnot and then got shot down because no one would let it go through their town.
  • If Brin makes this device which could save tens of thousands of lives a year, and cannot bring it to market due to patent issues, it will bring the flawed patent system into the public spotlight.

    Right now, the only exposure the average American has to the patent system is from radio ads by patent trolls.
    • by Stan92057 (737634)
      He didn't invent the driver-less car so unless he bought the patent for it, it belongs to someone else. My best guess would be the taxpayers of the USA since our government has been funding collages millions for quite a few years before Google ever can into existences. How can someone patent something that was invented long before they were born. He might have helped it to be improved but that doesn't make him the patent holder and certainly not the inventor
  • The article linked sounds like whining from CMU. Whittaker never really got over losing.

    The Stanford team was mostly funded by Mohr Davidson Ventures and Volkswagen. Volkswagen did all the automotive parts of the project with their own people.

    As for Stanford's relationship with Google, there' s no problem there. Google is a spinoff from Stanford, and Stanford owns a big chunk of stock in Google. Stanford University has a business unit, the Stanford Management Company, which runs the endowment and, am

  • by Chrisq (894406)
    Apple will have a picture of something looking like a car somewhere and therefore claim ownership
  • It is amazing that people still say that "Patents foster innovation" with a straight face.
  • Products are constantly being produced (including software products) that draw on previous research and development by other entities. These can include any number of research groups and organizations: Universities, government, private companies etc.

    The iPhone's Siri is a recent example. It uses research from DARPA and from various universities as well as earlier work by apple and by various researchers in plain speech command. Actually, most software products are not entirely independently develope

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