Strategy Needed to Secure Global Patents : Self-Driving Cars


The era of “self-driving cars” has come, where cars are capable of driving themselves to selected destinations without putting the stress on drivers to navigate through traffic.

Google’s “Google Car” started test driving in the regular roads since 2010, and other major domestic players in the auto industry, including Hyundai-Kia, have also announced to commercialize self-driving cars by 2020. Consequently, firms are rushing to develop related technology and file for patents.

According to the Korean Intellectual Property Office, technology related to autonomous cars had 23 patent applications in 2001, and up to 208 in 2015, with 21.8% steady, steep annual increase between 2007 and 2015.

Major patent applicants include ETRI (107 applications, 8.36%), Samsung Electronics (37, 2.89%), Google (12, 0.93%) from info-communication area, Hyundai Motor Group (48, 3.75%), Mando (22, 1.72%), Hyundai Mobis (19, 1.38%) from auto area, and Agency for Defense Development (67, 5.23%), KAIST (32, 2.5%) also ranked top 10 patent applicants.

Patent applications primarily deal with sensor/map technology (43.1%), travel route control technology (29.6%), interface technology (11.2%), communication/network/security technology (10.6%), and steering/actuator technology.

Interestingly, only 3.22% of domestic patent applicants apply for international patent under PCT to develop global intellectual property rights while Google, the only international firm to file for patent in Korea, applied for international patent under PCT for all 12 applications that are also pending in Korea.

Seeing the recent smartphone patent dispute among Samsung, Apple, and Xiaomi, firms in Korea should prepare for future international patent dispute by investing in research and development of technology, and utilize international patent system under PCT to secure global intellectual property rights.  

– Inspired by Platum

Joyce (Jung Min) is a senior at Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service, majoring in Global Business. In her free time, she loves to drink coffee, listen to music and explore downtown DC. Joyce can be reached at


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