Two bidders vie for Fisker Automotive’s 18 patents

Article by Anita Panait, on February 8, 2014

February 12, 2014 would be a memorable date for two Chinese-backed firms who are aiming to acquire the assets of collapsed carmaker Fisker Automotive Holdings Inc. One of them would go home getting nothing of the carmaker while the other would rejoice after winning the auction set on that date. The companies -- Wanxiang Group and Hybrid Tech Holdings LLC – are seen to be aiming to acquire Fisker’s 18 patents and a potential toehold in the United States and China.

However, the winner has to face the fact that Fisker hasn't built a vehicle since 2012 and its $103,000 Karma plug-in hybrid sports sedan was dubbed as a "basket case" by Consumer Reports. Fisker was also labeled a "loser" by Republican Mitt Romney during 2012 US presidential debates.

Likewise, it most visible asset is a neglected former GM site that Fisker never used. With two companies seeking to acquire Fisker’s asset, a bankruptcy judge has to set a Feb. 12 auction for them. "It's not about the manufacturing," Steven Szakaly, chief economist for the National Automobile Dealers Association, told Bloomberg.

"It's about the intellectual property." Fisker boasts of 18 patents include grille designs, a fender vent and electric-vehicle drivetrain technology, according to the database of the US Patent and Trademark Office.  Fisker also boasts of at least 18 more patent applications pending, including in aluminum subframing and solar-car technologies, according to Charles Shifley, a patent attorney at Banner & Witcoff Ltd.

Blair Jacobs, a patent lawyer with McDermott Will & Emery, remarked that Fisker’s patents have several possible applications for potential buyers who are keen to enter the growing alternative-fuels market. "To have a jump start with a portfolio that took three to five years to develop is really substantial," Jacobs told Bloomberg. For a Chinese company, Fisker’s remaining assets do hold particular promise as they would enable them revive the Fisker brand China and have an entry point in the US.

Built as per Fisker Automotive’s Sustainable and Accountable Design philosophy, the new Karma is the company’s first car. It is the result of the carmaker’s aim to improve the process of developing, building, marketing and disposing of cars – which typically consumes a lot of energy and resources. By improving this process, Fisker looks to reset the world’s expectation of carmakers.

In fact, Fisker is already pursuing ways to further raise efficiency while reducing environmental impact across the entire value chain. With these actions, the Fisker is striving to be the carmaker that is most dedicated to sustainability and accountability.

Meanwhile, sales and servicing of the new Fisker will be conducted through a network of established and respected retailers around the world. This network includes 45 locations in the United States, as well as another 45 being planned in Europe.

Its European retail network is currently being built up and will be operated by known vehicle importers like the BD Otomotive in Istanbul, Turkey; Emil Frey Group in Zurich, Switzerland; Fisker Italia in Merano, Italy; and Nellemann in Copenhagen, Denmark. Its presence in China has been secured through a non-exclusive distribution agreement that was inked with China Grand Automotive in December 2010.

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