The electric vehicle (EV) market is rapidly picking up pace. According to data from the RAC, nearly 40% of all new cars sold in 2021 in the UK have been hybrids or fully electric1. This is up from under 10% in 2019.
It is clear that electric vehicles are the future.
This rise in the popularity of electric vehicles has not only been driven by the rapidly maturing technology and developments in public attitudes, but also by regulatory pressures applied over the past 10 to 20 years. International, national and regional governments have to share some of the credit for the current EV boom.
In particular, UK consumers continue to see plenty of incentives from the national government pushing them towards electric vehicles. These include grants and rebates to purchase electric cars, financial support for installing at home EV charging points, and reduced road tax for environmentally friendly vehicles. Looking further ahead, the sale of new petrol-only and diesel-only cars in the UK will be prohibited from 2030, a decade earlier than originally planned, forcing both car companies and owners towards EVs.
In addition, regional and local governments have also helped spur development of greener vehicles.
Back in 2015, well before the recent rise in EV sales, Transport for London announced that all new taxis arriving on London's streets from January 2018 would have to be zero emission capable (that is be a plug-in hybrid or a fully electric car). In doing so, TfL threw the gauntlet down to industry, forcing cab manufacturers to innovate to maintain their business. The result was the clean, quiet LEVC TX. You might have seen one with its friendly circular headlights on London streets recently - there are over 5,000 of them now.
A similar story has occurred in local public transport. Across the UK, buses, trams and trains are being electrified, often at the request of councils and local governments. Indeed, fleets of electrified public transport vehicles neatly side-step the issue of "range anxiety" felt by drivers considering the switch to an electric car. If one electric bus needs to charge its battery at the end of its route, a fresh one can take its place and start the next round.
Additionally, financial support from government is available to innovative companies in the electric vehicle space. In June 2021 the UK government announced a £20 million fund to support the research and development of electric vehicles2. This is just one of many such funding competitions run over the past decade by both the UK and EU governments. Indeed, here at GJE we have worked with companies across a variety of industries that have received government grants and loans. These companies, often start-ups and SMEs, find our wealth of knowledge incredibly useful at helping them identify, manage and leverage their intellectual property and grow their businesses.
Indeed, as one of Europe's leading intellectual property (IP) firms, we are well placed to point out that registered IP rights - including patents, trade marks, registered design rights and copyright - are just another form of government support for innovative businesses.
Registered intellectual property rights provide legal monopolies to their owners that are granted by the state. These monopolies are very powerful, offering the ability for you to exclude competitors and would-be copycats from your space.
Furthermore, companies with registered IP rights can apply for tax relief, such as through the UK Patent Box scheme. Whilst registered IP rights also offer a marketing boon. Trade marks protect a business's brand identify, whilst the words "patent protected" and "patent pending" hold a certain aura for customers, marking a company out as innovative and forward thinking.
In view of these benefits, it is unsurprising that car manufacturers and other players in the electric vehicle field are quick to protect their inventions, products and brands through all means available. This is reflected across other industries too.
As such, if your company does not have a coherent approach to its intellectual property you run the risk of being left behind. Whether or not you are in the electric vehicle space, make sure that you adequately protect and leverage your IP in order to maximise the regulatory support on offer to your business.
The content of this article is intended to provide a general guide to the subject matter. Specialist advice should be sought about your specific circumstances.