With all the focus on electric and autonomous vehicles of late, we have to ask - what about flying cars? Flying cars have been around for a long, long time. Yet they never seem to break into the mainstream. A Geely-backed US startup, Terrafugia, is hoping to change that narrative with their production vehicle - the Transition. They are supposedly taking orders right now.
No more worries about where to store your plane, dealing with aviation fuel, etc…
So they must have a lot of new IP on this flying car, right? A quick search of the USPTO database, however, illustrates that they have only 2 issued patents, one going back to 2006 and the other to 2008. This seems like a paltry amount of IP if they are actually bringing a flying car to market. Looking at the most recent patent (US 8,210,473), it relates to a folding wing root mechanism, and in particular to improvements to the hinge of a folding aircraft wing including a load bearing hinge mechanism with multiple locking mechanisms. The mechanism includes rigid panels that cover the hinge area when the wing is deployed, and the wing itself covers the hinge area when the wing is retracted. A control lever is used to actuate the wing and incorporates safety features to prevent unwanted actuation.
That sounds cool and all, but there should be something more exciting when we are talking about a flying car. Further, if there really is a market, this Chinese-backed company may learn the hard way commercial success can be short-lived by failing to protect your IP, as any lucrative market will be attractive - and even more so when competitors learn that there are little or no IP barriers to entry.