Wednesday 11 March 2009

OPEL IP Confusion

BBC News runs a story that Opel, the German car maker, should consider entering into insolvency rather than rely on a state handout to help its survival. This type of story is all too common these days but what struck this writer is that, according to the BBC, there is now apparent "confusion about whether Opel owns the intellectual property information about its vehicles":

Picture: Opel's lightening brand without the IP

"Deputy economic minister Dagmar Woehrl told parliament on Wednesday that GM had pledged the IP of Opel as security against capital injections it had received from the US government. Trade union leader Armin Schild, who is on the board of Opel, said that both firms could use the IP without having to pay royalties. But it has raised concerns that it could be sold on by GM. GM Europe proposed last week that Opel should be partly separated from its parent company's US operations. " (BBC news)

"The stricken US car maker General Motors has ceded patents obtained by its German unit Opel to the US Treasury in exchange for public aid, the daily Bild-Zeitung reported on Friday." (Yahoo News)

The two reports appear to conflict each other - has the IP been pledged (BBC) or has it been ceded (Yahoo News) in exchange for the finance. Either way,the perception that Opel may not own all of its IP nor for that matter have control over it (eg in the sense of being able to enforce it as it likes) is one which the car manufacturer will have to try to ensure does not affect their ability to attract investment on all levels. The US Treasury too will also have an interest in ensuring that the perception (and confusion) does not harm their own investment. Those in the know please feel free to "enlighten" us.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This is an interesting story that I have been following over the last few months - from memory the situation is that Opel "sold" all of their patents to a US subsidiary of GM (a holding company) in return for which Opel were to pay an annual royalty (presumably this was all for Tax reasons!). All of GM' patents, including the former Opel IP, have now been pledged as security to the US gov't (i.e. the BBC are correct).

The added complication in the hold story is that GM have apparently only ever paid a fraction of the money due to Opel for the purchase of the IP (only the first instalment?) whereas Opel have been duly paying loyalties for several years.