TomTom strengthens its patent portfolio

TomTom strengthens its patent portfolio
TomTom announced yesterday it has acquired the entire world-wide patent portfolio of Horizon Navigation Inc. a Santa Clara, US based company. Horizon has been designing vehicle navigation systems for eighteen years. It developed original equipment navigation solutions for General Motors, Ford, Chrysler, Porsche, and Nissan. In addition, Horizon designed aftermarket products for Audiovox, Clarion, Dual and Cobra Electronics.

Horizon has also agreed to provide US based R&D to augment TomTom’s development teams and will continue to develop its own software products. Financial details of the transaction were not disclosed.

Harold Goddijn, TomTom’s Chief Executive said “We are delighted to acquire these important patents, many of which were invented in the early years of GPS. Horizon's patents will add to our own rapidly growing patent portfolio.”

TomTom has already been using three Horizon Navigations patents bought previously to launch a lawsuit against Garmin in the United States District Court for the Western District of Wisconsin. The judge dismissed TomTom in its claim last December.

Buying a whole new set of GPS and navigation intellectual property is a good way for TomTom to prevent any lawsuit damage from Garmin. Indeed Garmin has a very strong patent portfolio - the company was selected as an inaugural constituent of the Ocean Tomo 300 Patent Index based on the value of this portfolio - and used it to launch several lawsuit against TomTom in the US and in Europe.

Despite its success, TomTom’s presence in the GPS industry is very recent and the company was – and still is – primarily a software company. Therefore its intellectual property in this field is small especially compared to Garmin. Garmin started to develop GPS technologies in 1989, while TomTom launched its first software navigation solution in 2001 and its first hardware product, TomTom GO, in 2004. Until 2003 and the appointment of Mark Gretton, former CTO of Psion, the company didn’t have hardware engineers.

Friday, June 22nd 2007

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