In today’s AMN Executive Interview, aftermarketNews sits down with Odd Joergenrud, regional president, North America Automotive Aftermarket Division, Robert Bosch LLC. In the interview, Joergenrud talks about Bosch’s extensive investment in R&D, the rapid pace of product development and the company’s passion to protect its intellectual property.
Last month, Robert Bosch announced a settlement agreement with ADM21 Co. Ltd, ending a patent infringement lawsuit involving six wiper blade patents. This one was the last in a group of some 20 lawsuits Bosch has concluded since 2013. Correct? Please give us a brief rundown of the suits, how the issues were discovered and how they were resolved.
Joergenrud: Over the past five years, Bosch has successfully defended its intellectual property against patent infringement, brand infringement and counterfeit products in over 25 lawsuits. To date, all decisions have been in our favor. While there are two pending cases that have yet to be resolved, we expect a successful resolution of each. Going forward we will remain vigilant.
Please understand that Bosch is in a unique position. We invest far more than most competitors in research and development. Currently it is about 12 percent of our automotive sector sales that gets reinvested in research and development. Our strategy is to innovate. Thus, we have to protect our investment when others try to take advantage of our efforts.
As a company, Robert Bosch is quite vigorous in protecting its Intellectual Property (IP). What is involved in the process in terms of cost, manpower, logistics, etc.?
Joergenrud: We have global network dedicated to defending our intellectual property that includes a wide range of experts from engineering to legal. Our challenges range by region. Some countries are known for copycats that attempt to use our brand. In North America, our primary challenge is defending our patents and trademarks to prevent the entry of knock-off products into the market that could be harmful to the public and the environment. While the cost of doing so is high, the cost of not doing this is even higher.
While it may seem obvious why it’s important to protect a company’s IP, what, to you, are the most important reasons for staying vigilant?
Joergenrud: Bosch is a leading global automotive supplier and as such, invests 12 percent of its automotive sector sales back into research and development every year; filing an average of 20 patents every working day. It’s our passion – instilled in us by our founder – and we are committed to it. Invented for life means that Bosch products enhance the quality of everyday life. When competitors infringe on intellectual property it hurts everybody, except for the unscrupulous companies that are looking for a quick profit. Staying vigilant against infringers guards against unfair competition and the entry of substandard or unsafe products into the market and onto customers’ shelves.
In what ways do you most commonly discover patent/IP infringement – at trade shows, from customers?
Joergenrud: Actually, both have come into play. Every year at AAPEX and other shows, a team of Bosch personnel, including attorneys, are on the lookout. We also hear from customers, and on occasion the government, about potential IP violations.
Not only is this kind of effort important to Robert Bosch, but you have said you believe this has widespread benefits for the automotive aftermarket industry as a whole. Tell us more about this.
Joergenrud: The aftermarket industry, similar to all industries, benefits from innovation. Innovation allows us to create new products and services that technicians and consumers want. Just consider the latest trends: gasoline direct injection, alternative powertrains, beam wiper blades, copper-free brake friction and telematics. The independent aftermarket needs access to these innovations and Bosch is committed to meeting that need. Just last year we introduced nearly 2,700 new part numbers across all of our product lines, providing total coverage of 1.74 billion vehicles in operation in the U.S. and Canada.
Bosch is known for its strong investment in R&D and creates on average 20 new patents per day. That’s an incredible amount. How much of this is invested in aftermarket products?
Joergenrud: All Bosch automotive innovations are made available to the aftermarket. While innovation typically starts as OE technology that is later brought to the aftermarket, as was the case with ICON Wiper Blades for example, that is not always the case. Examples where Bosch invests in innovation for the aftermarket include the Long Haul Alternator, DistancePlus Oil Filter, copper-free brake pads and our full range of IAM diagnostic tools and repair equipment. Not only do we develop the most advanced powertrain systems in the world, but we also develop technologies for their service and repair.
What role does Bosch’s OE expertise have in the development of the company’s aftermarket products? Are you able to create any improvements in the replacement product as a result of the feedback from the OE side?
Joergenrud: Bosch aftermarket products are based on OE specifications, to deliver the same quality, function and durability as OE. Though our warranty rate is low, if any field problems do develop once the OE parts are on production vehicles, we use that knowledge to build the needed improvement into the aftermarket part.
Our OE knowledge is also incorporated into the diagnostic and repair training that we offer. The Bosch Service network, for both automotive and diesel, includes a network of some 2,100 partners in North America who have access to what we feel is some of the best training available in the market today.