theodp writes: Q. Why DIDN'T the chicken cross the road? A. To avoid infringing on Google patents like Traffic Signal Mapping and Detection! Google co-founder Sergey Brin recently revealed that he is now leading Google's efforts to ready a driverless car for the consumer market, a project that Google CEO Larry Page is presumably stoked about (despite downplaying it for Wall Street analysts), but one big publicly-unanswered question is: Who exactly owns the intellectual property behind the highly-touted vehicles? To develop the Google Car, Google said it tapped 'the very best engineers from the DARPA Challenges', a series of autonomous vehicle races organized by the U.S. Government which provided university teams with millions in development funding and millions more in prizes. Last year, Carnegie Mellon reported that 8 of the 15-member Google Car team had current or past ties to DARPA Challenge participants CMU and Stanford. Whether Google's sponsorship of the Stanford Racing Team and CMU Tartan Racing entitled it to the IP is unclear. Clouding matters further is that key Google Car Team members are listed as inventors of autonomous car technology in pending patents assigned to the likes of General Motors and Toyota, and it was reported that the credit (and liability) for another key team member's successful robotic, autonomous Prius project was his-and-his-alone, not Google's. So, should Google manage to make driverless cars ready for prime time (there are some doubts), could another party lay claims to the technology, like Microsoft managed to do with Android, or does Google have all of its IP ducks in a row on this one?
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