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Technological advances allow Texas residents to purchase passenger vehicles that have built-in navigation and infotainment systems. As cars and trucks get smarter, the competition to obtain and use the technology behind those additional features gets increasingly fierce among automakers. This could lead some vehicle manufacturers -- and the companies from which they purchase certain components -- to violate patent law in order to remain competitive in the market. 

In fact, Advanced Silicon Technologies recently accused automakers such as BMW, Honda and Volkswagen, along with companies who manufacture components in those vehicles like Texas Instruments, Harman and Renesas Electronics, of infringing on four of its infotainment system patents. In response to these allegations, the U.S. International Trade Commission is considering commencing an investigation into the allegations. Regardless, the company filed a lawsuit in federal court.

These allegations are similar to those against the makers of smart phones. So-called patent trolls initiate many of these lawsuits in the automotive industry, according to one source. Patent trolls are companies that purchase patents simply for the sake of asserting those patents, but they do not manufacture products with them.

Even if a patent law claim is filed by a patent troll, that does not mean that there was no infringement. The courts are responsible for determining whether any infringement occurred and what restitution the plaintiff might be awarded. Both monetary and non-monetary awards are often requested and made in these cases. Any Texas inventor who believes that another party infringed his or her patent is entitled to defend the rights protected under that patent.

Source: pcworld.com, "Toyota, BMW, Volkswagen being investigated in the US for patent infringement", John Ribeiro, Feb. 2, 2016

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