By Eric Cohen, Marketing Manager
When you work in tech, you hear a lot about patents and intellectual property (IP) as being important. But, when you work in emerging technology, patents and IP can become the life blood of a company. I spent some time with Scott Witonsky, WiTricity’s Vice President of IP & Licensing, to talk about our IP portfolio.
We all hear the term “IP” thrown around, but what is it, exactly?
Think about IP as ideas – and the expressions of those ideas – that form the core technology that is the basis of our business. Or another way to think about it is as the inventions that created WiTricity and continue to drive us forward.
So, in building a new business, our IP is incredibly important.
That’s right. Our IP is not only the driver of our business model in terms of both licensing our IP and building products, but it also forms a moat around our business to protect our investments in innovation. Other companies are of course free to design their own technological solutions without the use of our IP, but because WiTricity’s technology is so foundational, we believe that many companies in the wireless charging space will require a license to our IP portfolio.
How many patents does WiTricity have?
We have more than 1150 issued patents and more than 250 patents pending that cover our IP around the world for automotive, industrial, consumer electronics, and medical fields of use. Our protection extends to all major markets, including Europe, China, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Canada, Australia, and India.
That’s a lot of patents! Where did all those patents come from?
Our company grew out of MIT, so we initially began by licensing foundational energy transfer technology patents from MIT. We then began to file our own patents as a private company. When we acquired the HALO business from Qualcomm in 2019, we acquired their electric vehicle charging patents, along with a license for related patents from the University of Auckland (the world’s largest academic program for wireless electricity). As the company continues to grow and innovate, we will continue to file for new patents based upon improvements we are making to the core technology and specific applications of the technology in various fields.
A surprise fact that many people don’t know is that, although our current business is focused on wireless charging for electric vehicles, our technology can be used across many industries, including industrial systems (robotics and materials handling), consumer electronics, e-scooters, and medical devices. Really, any product that requires getting energy from Point A to Point B wirelessly, and as efficiently as possible, benefits from our technology.
I know we want to make this technology accessible to as many people and companies as possible. How do we license our IP?
Our licensing practices have been established over many years, and many automakers, consumer brands and their suppliers are already licensed. Our preferred way to license our IP is through technology transfer and patent licensing. We can put reference designs and evaluation systems in the hands of our licensees so they can quickly learn how the technology works. We also have many active collaborations where we are working with a partner to help develop and introduce a product into the market. When our licensees sell products based on a reference design, a royalty payment is made.
Who are our partners?
Sometimes I feel like the question is “who isn’t a partner” because we have worked with so many companies in so many markets over the years. We are also unique because we work at all levels of the supply chain, from brands and OEMs to Tier 1s and contract manufacturers, to component makers and Tier 2s. So, we are talking car makers, industrial, consumer systems companies, and medical device companies, as well as their suppliers that might make wireless charging modules or integrated circuits. Check out a partial list of innovative global organizations that are currently licensing our technologies.
How do we engage with our partners?
Let’s use automotive as an example. The automotive ecosystem is rapidly evolving, and I think it is critically important for OEMs and suppliers to have an open dialog about the benefits of incorporating cutting edge technologies into cars. In addition, OEMs are increasingly engaging with start-ups to help foster and incubate new technology in the autonomy, electrification, and connected car spaces. Direct access to the OEMs’ engineers and platforms, during the development phase, will enable suppliers to speed up deployment and create a better user experience.
I think the point here is that to get the most out of the technology, engagement with WiTricity is critical. We are the world’s leading experts, we are the problem solvers, and we want to see the technology widely deployed in the next generation of EVs. And to be clear, this engagement model works across all fields of use including industrial, consumer electronics, and medical.
Why don’t these companies simply create their own products without our IP?
The fact that these companies are even thinking about wireless power is because of the inventions at WiTricity and MIT, and our efforts to build global awareness and the wireless ecosystem. Companies recognize that WiTricity has the foundational patents for the core technology that enables efficient energy transfer over distance. Having been in the business for nearly 15 years, we’ve done the R&D and product development that allows other companies to get to market quicker. We showed it was possible, how to do it, and have patented those inventions. As a result, we have a worldwide partner network in which we all benefit. It’s a win-win for everyone.
With an increased focus on climate change and green initiatives, are you seeing an uptick in inquiries from companies that are trying to make a difference using wireless technology?
Yes, I am. Companies and governments see the world moving away from fossil fuels and are generating creative solutions that give consumers and businesses more wireless charging options. It’s an exciting time to be in this space and be part of the technology that’s changing our world.
WiTricity recently announced it has joined the Charging Interface Initiative (CharIN) as a core member, click here to learn more.