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Patent granted for path planning which affects almost every mobile robot application?

We just found out about a patent that was granted in Europe by Omron, which reads like they got a patent granted for general path planning like we know from the navigation stack.
It looks like this could affect pretty much every mobile robot application.

I don’t think this can hold for long but how is this possibe?
Does somebody have more detailed insight on what this could mean for the ROS community and the many applications already using this?

Warning: Omron patent

Obviously I’m not a lawyer so consult someone competent before using anything from this post.

On one hand this is pretty bad and shouldn’t happen if there is a prior art (which in this case there should be), on the other no one wants to go through the legal trouble involved and I can imagine that an issue like this if fought with all the might of some large company could even destroy some smaller companies.

It looks like you can submit Observations to EPO through this form : https://www.epo.org/searching-for-patents/legal/observations.html. I think I would start here (if I have some free time I’ll try to submit the form myself). Not sure how and if this can help with anything but it’s worth a try.

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Typically as an engineer, legal will advise you to never read patents. I’d suggest you take that position in the future since it can cause you and your company a tremendous amount of pain if it were litigated you had read it and/or expressed thoughts on it (e.g. if Omron ever sued your company, this post itself is evidence for them that you willingly infringed on their IP, which comes with substantially more damages than accidental infringement). If you took an engineering ethics or patent law class in college, I’d recommend skimming those materials again or talking to your company’s legal department on their rules.

I haven’t clicked on the link (for the reasons above), but remember that just because you hold a patent doesn’t mean it’s defensible or that your understanding of the claims section fully encapsulates the field to catch every variation a company / implementation might employ. You’d need to be talking to a lawyer to determine that. If indeed it is that far reaching, its likely indefensible and would not hold up in court, especially since they didn’t prior art the field of motion planning.

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As an addition to @smac’s post, my understanding is that the EU is stricter about trying to enforce broad patents than the USA is, so it’s probable that either Omron doesn’t actually intend to enforce this patent (it’s defensive), or that they do but don’t realise how little chance they have of winning.

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