Google’s Waymo has raced past Toyota by becoming the field’s leader in competitive power from patents, reports Nikkei Asian Review.
The U.S. company’s climb to the top has been attributed to its AI and cutting edge data technology.
Waymo surged to first place in Nikkei’s ranking of patent-based competitiveness in the sector as of July’s end, nearly tripling its score to 2,815 points from comparable results two years earlier and rising from fifth place.
Toyota fell to second with 2,243, followed by General Motors, Ford Motor and Nissan Motor. German components maker Robert Bosch was pushed out of the top five.
Nikkei was assisted in the survey by Tokyo-based research firm Patent Result.
The rise of data-handling technology is beginning to catch up with Japanese automakers who have long focused on hardware, reports the Nikkei.
All four of the Japanese companies in the top 10 – Toyota, Nissan, Honda Motor and Denso – came in lower than in 2016.
Companies were scored on three factors related to their U.S. patents: the degree to which they pursued patent rights, the level of notice competitors paid them, and how widely known their patents were to examiners.
Those that applied for international patents scored highly in the first category, for instance, and those facing many petitions from rivals for invalidation trials earned points for the second.
In the third, a major factor was how frequently companies’ patents were cited in international search reports — reports on advanced patents by international bodies.
Waymo patents were cited 769 times in total, about 1.6 times Toyota’s count and 2.3 times GM’s.
Citations by international examiners serve as a benchmark for approvals: the more a company is cited, the harder it is for competitors to win similar patents.
Waymo has just 318 patents in force, less than half Toyota’s count, but its patents are widely known to examiners and are recognized as the cutting edge.
Waymo earned 1,385 points – nearly half its total score – on patents related to AI, while Toyota earned just 204 in that category.
Image and content: Reuters/Nikkei Asian Review