AIADA Dealer Chair Calls Patent Complaint 'Quiet Threat' to Industry
Most of the time, the threats facing dealers are unmistakable. High taxes, redundant federal regulations and inequitable labor rules are all good examples. When those challenges present themselves, American International Automobile Dealers Association and its members are quick to spring into action.
Sometimes, however, the threats are much more difficult to identify. On Oct. 21, something happened that could threaten all of our livelihoods; and most dealers don’t even know about it.
On that date, a little company you’ve never heard of — Beacon Navigation GmbH — filed a complaint with the International Trade Commission against every single big name auto manufacturer, domestic and international.
Beacon Navigation is alleging that each of those manufacturers, from Audi to Volvo, has infringed upon its patents related to GPS navigation systems. The patents specifically mentioned include those that allow users to search for points of interest (U.S. Patent No. 6,374,180) and determine location by using velocity information (U.S. Patent Nos. 6,029,111 and 5,862,511).
Many of the cars we sell today come equipped with a navigation system, and Beacon Navigation is claiming that nearly every one of them is violating patent law. The company asked the ITC to issue limited exclusion orders and permanent cease-and-desist orders directed at the named automakers. In other words, they want the sale and import of the vehicles built by those companies stopped.
Take a minute, and imagine a world where the import and sale of many cars built by Ford, GM, Honda, and Toyota — along with every other automaker — is halted.
Imagine the cost — in jobs and revenue. All because of one complaint from one small company. Maybe you don’t think such a thing could ever happen. And I hope you’re right. But as of today, Beacon’s complaint is being considered by the ITC. Not laughed out of the room. Seriously considered.
Last week the ITC invited interested parties to file comments regarding the public interest issues raised by the complaint. You can find AIADA’s letter here. In it, we describe the potential disastrous impact on public health, safety and welfare raised by Beacon’s request. In addition, we point out that because Beacon is only a patent filing entity, and does not actually build cars or navigation systems, it is not prepared to fill the void that removing nearly every other navigation system from the market will leave.
Beacon’s complaint is exceptional in its scope and sheer gall, but similar sneak attacks happen on our industry regularly. Fortunately, organizations like AIADA are vigilant in protecting our businesses from the threats we don’t hear about — until it’s too late. AIADA will continue to follow this case, and if necessary, take their advocacy to the next level.
You can help AIADA in its mission to face every threat — from the newly formed Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, to new taxes, to lawsuits like this one — by being an active and involved member in the association.
Start by reading AIADA’s FirstUp every morning. Join its Legislative Action Network and engage with your lawmakers. Join me and other dealers in Las Vegas this February at our Annual Meeting. Together, we are a powerful force against those that would put us out of business.