This will be the first of an ongoing segment that showcases innovative cleantech companies and their patent strategies.
Exide Technologies is a leading battery storage company with over 120 years of experience in the battery space. Originally founded in 1888 in Philadelphia, the company now has offices spanning across Europe, India, and Australia.
The core competency of Exide Technologies is the lead-acid battery – the original rechargeable battery – for automobiles, motive power, and network power (Exide batteries are “the official battery of NASCAR“). In addition to the production of lead-acid batteries, Exide Technologies provides nine recycling centers worldwide to process spent batteries.
From the very beginning, patents were vital to Exide’s success. The company began with the strategic acquisition of fundamental energy storage ideas and patents from the French inventor, Clement Payen. From 1979 onwards, Exide and its division GNB Battery have filed approximately 240 utility patents worldwide, with 99 issued US patents and 25 issued European patents.
Exide files a continuous stream of patents on improvements in the longevity of its rechargeable batteries, such as carbon additives that reduce lead sulphate accumulation (US20120251876), improved plate separators (EP1585182A1), and battery casings that can withstand automobile vibrations and other movements (US6962761, EP1280214A2). Exide also files patents on innovations on waste remediation for lead casings and other battery components (US5788735).
If we take a look at Exide’s patent filing history over the last 10 years, we can see a downward trend in patent filings from 2008-2010 after a peak in 2004, which coincides with the last recession. Both of Exide’s patent filings in 2011 were granted, however, showing that Exide is once again spending money on innovation. We do not have full figures for 2012 (due to the 18 month lag in patent publications), but Exide’s ability to fund an internation patent application (WO), suggests that its patent filing rates will continue to grow.
The company’s top inventors include William Kung, David Lund, and Purushothama Rao.
If we search for lead-acid batteries in the titles and abstracts of worldwide patent documents, we can create a patent landscape map around the technology space (below). Here, we can see that Exide Technologies (in red) has competencies across the lead-acid battery market, from separator technology (lower right) to innovations around new metal allows (lower left).
A broad look at other companies in lead-acid space shows that Exide Technologies is a large innovative player in this market, but has major competitors from Japan.
Shin Kobe (green), Matsushita (yellow), and Japan Storage Battery (light blue) all have broad competencies across the entire lead-acid battery space, while Nippon (dark blue) specializes in battery separator technology.