I thought when I wrote this piece – “The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly About Motorcycle Patents” – that we would see a more sophisticated handling of motorcycle industry patents from the motorcycling media going forward.
Clearly my expectations were too high, since I just saw RideApart’s story, “Honda Underseat Exhaust Patent Hints at V4 Supersport”, which claims to show a patent for a new Honda V4 supersport. It doesn’t, and quite frankly, RideApart should know better…let me explain.
First off – and this really should be an easy one – the patent images show what is obviously a Honda RC213V-S motorcycle, and the patent goes on describe exactly the kind of exhaust system this machine uses, which is based off Honda’s MotoGP race bike.
As I pointed out in my previous story, these images shouldn’t be taken at face value, as the graphics on a patent are merely suggestions (the real meat is in the patent claims section), but they do give us an idea of what a brand is up to unofficially.
As such, any journalist…nay…any sport bike enthusiast worth his or her salt should immediately recognize this motorcycle in illustration, and thus be immediately suspicious.
I was, and it took me about 30 seconds of using Google to find this photo, which gives a pretty good glimpse at the RC213V-S exhaust…it looks familiar, right?
The meatier part of this tip-off though is little bit more technical, and requires an understanding of how the US patent system works – not exactly your normal fare, but again if you are going to publish on this subject, you should first have an understanding of it. It’s really not that difficult.
This is where it is important to know that the USPTO has two search databases: one for patents that have been granted (PatFT), and one for patent applications (AppFtT). It’s important to know which database you are searching in, because otherwise you will be confusing patents with applications.
In case you miss that though, there are several more spots where the USPTO tries to warn you off from looking like an idiot on the internet. First, anytime you see a patent number end in “A1” – as in US 2017/0159531 A1 – this is a tip-off that it is the number for a patent application, not a patent.
When in doubt though, the USPTO really tries to flag this issue for you…by calling the document a PATENT APPLICATION PUBLICATION. I have double-circled this below, just to make sure it is extra clear. We can’t take any chances here, apparently.
So right off the bat, we know that Honda hasn’t patented anything. Instead, they have applied for a patent – a fine but important legal distinction. But what about this being for a new V4 supersport?
Beyond the fact that the patent application says nothing on the issue of a V4 engine (the patent actually says it can be used for any engine configuration type), we can tell by the timing of this document that it refers to an older machine, not some new 600cc class bike – that’s what a “supersport” is by the way, but you knew that already.
This is the real important part, because one needs to understand that the filing date and the publication date are two very different things on a patent.
The USPTO is a slow government bureaucracy, and it can literally take years for a patent application to be published, let alone for it to become a full-fledged patent.
As we can see in the close-up below, the filing date for this patent was December 4, 2015 – whereas the publication date was today, June 8, 2017. Why is this important? That filing date gives insight on when Honda wants that intellectual property protection to start taking place.
Even more important though, it frames that patent in the events of that time.
In the case of the latter-part of 2015, that was when Honda was beginning to deliver the Honda RC213V-S street bike to customers the world, which is when a product would be considered in the public domain, and thus is when you would want IP protections to start taking effect.
No one likes a new motorcycle story more than I do, but sadly today I have to scuttle any hopes that we have seen a glimpse of some new V4 sport bike that is coming down the pipe from Big Red.
Maybe such a machine is coming, and maybe it will use this technology (both points are almost certainly yes), but what we have seen here has clearly nothing to do with a new machine, and instead belongs to the Honda RC213V-S.
As I’ve said before: “when someone flaunts a patent image as proof that a new motorcycle is coming to market, they either have no idea what they are talking about, or they are click-baiting you into reading their story. Sometimes it’s both.”
I’ll let you decide what the case is here.