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Old 23rd November 2007, 11:52   #1
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Default TATA to seek patents for 1 lakh car

as per news report in today's economic times TATA sought patents for the one lakh car.
Auto heavyweight Tata Motors is understood to have sought a global patent for the design and technology involved in the much awaited Rs one-lakh car, people close to the development said.

Tata, which has used a number of new concepts and ideas in developing this vehicle, wants to ensure that it is fully protected against any imitation in the ultra-competitive global auto industry.

A Tata Motors spokesperson declined comment on the development. It is not clear what aspect of technology Tata Motors was trying to patent. The car, which will sport a rear engine, variomatic transmission and the boot space in the front, is expected to be unveiled in January and launched towards the middle of the year.

“The car will sport a rear engine and seat four to five persons and will be launched in the middle of the next financial year,” was all that he was willing to comment. Many major automobile makers have secured patents for their cars in the past. Ford’s Model T, Volkswagen’s Beetle and the British Motor Corp’s Mini are the most notable ones.

A patent, which protects some of its innovative ideas, will help Tata Motors in its efforts to sell the car beyond the home market. Africa, Southeast Asia, Eastern Europe and Latin America are being considered as key markets by Bombay House, the seat of the group’s worldwide empire.

Other global and local auto companies have announced plans to develop a similar low-priced vehicle for the Indian roads ever since the Tata group announced its plans. French giant Renault has tied up with Bajaj Auto. Japanese major Toyota is also believed to be eyeing this segment.

If successful, the move will help the Indian company use the design and make in global markets where it hopes to target similar income group consumers. Sources said in addition to the design, Tata Motors has put in a lot of efforts to develop components to reduce costs and make the rear-engine vehicle fuel-efficient. Analysts said it made sense for the Tatas to seek global patents given their largely international business growth strategy.

“Auto companies usually patent technology more than design. Generally the patent regime for design is difficult to defend in many countries. Companies work out the patent regime in a time bound manner and is very country specific. It depends on the cost-benefit analysis before they patent the product,” says Abdul Majeed, partner, PriceWaterhouseCoopers.

The costs involved in securing a global patent for the car would also be significant, analysts say and is only feasible for companies with the backing of a large group like the Tatas. The base model of the Rs one lakh car will be fitted with variomatic gears, which means it will be gearless for all practical purposes, instead of the standard manual gears on conventional cars.

This is a radical departure, given that typically in India, auto-transmission variants are priced higher than manual variants. More surprisingly, the engine will be mounted in the rear of the car, pushing the luggage compartment or dickey to the front, a trend that is common in the international markets.

The changes apparently have been made to improve its fuel efficiency and ensure that the price tag is kept to a lakh. The higher-end version will feature manual gears and frills such as air-conditioning, power windows and power steering, among others.
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