The car has become a networked infotainment center in recent years. “Connectivity and state-of-the-art infotainment have found their way into all brands and all classes” announced VW CEO Martin Winterkorn, who has since stepped down, already three years ago at the IAA, speaking of the “largest networked vehicle fleet on the road”. This now also seems to attracts attention to the VW Group that is not found among classic car buyers. In the automotive industry, it was actually assumed that patent exploiters, so-called patent trolls, would attack based on the infringement of mobile communications patents. Now it is the semiconductor manufacturer Broadcom who is putting the Volkswagen group under massive pressure. The claim is said to be one billion euros and it is threatened that the production of various VW models, including the Golf, Passat, Touran, Tiguan and models from the Group’s subsidiaries Audi and Porsche will be stopped. It concerns the infringement of a total of 18 patents in navigation and entertainment systems.
This development throws a bright spotlight on the future developments of the so-called Internet of Things (IoT) and the use of patents. It became known that BMW had already acquired a license for wireless technology from the US license dealer Avanci in December 2017. According to the industry news ticker Juve, BMW pays a license fee of between 3 and 15 US dollars per car depending on the standard used. Depending on the network device that is installed in the vehicles, this can mean considerable costs for the suppliers. The industry giants Sony, ZTE, Vodafone, Ericsson and Qualcomm have bundled their mobile communications patents in the Avanci patent pool. With the IoT logic, practically every object and machine becomes a cellular device and communicates via mobile communication standards, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. How this should be dealt with in the future, especially for standard-essential patents, is still an unsolved problem in the various branches of industry.
According to Handelsblatt dated November 21, 2018, Broadcom and VW are said to have reached an out of court settlement shortly before the scheduled court date. VW did not want to comment on the report that Bloomberg published, citing insiders. The order of omission and thus the production stop for various VW models could be averted. How much of the one billion US dollar claim was actually paid is unknown.