comma.ai has been in business 6 years, a lawsuit had to come at some point. But it’s not even about anything good.
It’s brought by notorious autonomous vehicle patent troll Axel Nix!
Axel Nix is a 51 year old man living in Birmingham, MI. He apparently used to be an engineer, but has, shall I say, pivoted to a different business model? From his LinkedIn:
I founded Smartpat PLC with a simple vision: Draft and prosecute patents that matter. Patents that truly add value to my clients.
Since Axel’s departure from the ADAS team at HARMAN in 2017, he has taken up AV patent trolling full time. With his company Sucxess LLC (suggested slogan: they put the X in success), he has filed lawsuits against Voyage, AutoX, Pony.ai, Dataspeed, SF Motors, and WeRide Corp. All claiming that they are infringing the same bogus patents.
As far as I can tell, Sucxess LLC produces nothing, has never attempted to produce anything, and has never even won a jury trial about any of their patents. They subsist off of the settlements handed to them by companies who are scared and weak. This is just a straight up shake down, and I’m shocked that it’s allowed by the US court system.
The lawsuit against us
We’ve posted the complaint here. From reading the complaint, he seems to have a 15 year old patent on some auto emergency call system if a car crashes or something, nothing at all to do with what comma.ai does. But that isn’t the point, he is banking on the case never going to trial. The point is he mistook us as an easy target, someone he could shake down for a settlement.
What he didn’t take into account is that comma isn’t run by rational actors in suits sitting on a committee. It’s run by me, George Hotz. I’m willing to lose $1M before I give him $10k. We will hire an amazing legal team, fight this, and while doing so invalidate his patents so they can’t be used against anyone else. Not because it’s rational, but because it’s the right thing to do. No patent troll will ever get a dollar from comma.
Sadly Voyage, AutoX, and Pony.ai appear to have settled, which fuels this illegitimate profession. Hopefully the world understands why appeasement is a bad idea.
How you can help
We really admire what cloudflare did in dealing with patent trolls. If this continues, we want to work to invalidate not just the patents he is wrongfully claiming against us, but his entire patent portfolio. “Patent troll” should not be an acceptable profession in America, or anywhere for that matter!
We will announce more on this soon. Cloudflare’s crowdsourced prior art search was brilliant. And I’m sure it won’t just be us he tries to shake down in this round, with his lawsuit against Dataspeed, he even tried to go after their customers!