Surface transport logistics provider Rivigo has filed for three patents in the US for algorithms created by it, making it a rare instance of an Indian startup seeking to do so, given the country's poor record in developing and protecting intellectual property.
While India's startups have claimed to have spent millions on research and development, very few of them have filed for patents to protect the various technologies developed by them in-house. In December last year, ET reported that Snapdeal-owned digital payments firm Freecharge had filed for one for its authentication solutions, termed as 'On The Go Pin,' which is aimed at making both online as well as offline transactions faster, by cutting the delay caused in receiving the OTP through text message.
Rivigo has developed algorithms that deal with managing fuel efficiency and pilferage, availability of drivers in the relay system, and loading plans to help reduce damages to products carried by its trucks. "We have created very sophisticated technologies that have tried to solve multiple problems that currently exist," said Hemant Khandelwal, chief technology officer at Rivigo.
For example, for logistics operators, fuel is one of the higher contributors to a company's operating costs, adding up to almost 40%. "The algorithms allow us to get the most accurate fuel value, calibrate our fuel sensors and to detect pilferage. They take into account factors such as whether the vehicle is running or not, whether the ignition is off, or even when the network is down, and data may not have come in as yet," Khandelwal told ET.
The other two technologies, for which applications for patents have been submitted, take into account geo-location and behavioural data to ensure that the most suitable drivers are available for the truck run to go off smoothly. It has also created a 3D loading plan that ensure minimal to no damages to products being transported, a massive issue faced by truck operators across the globe.
For Rivigo, the decision to file for patents in the US, is an indication of the company's plans to enter the lucrative American market, and possibly license the same, giving it an additional revenue stream. "The solutions we are working on are globally applicable. At the right time in thefuture, we would aspire to take our offerings global. As we do, we want to protect our interests and that is why the need to file patents outside India," said Deepak Garg,CEO of Rivigo.
The Gurgaon-based company, which recently inducted former Flipkart head honcho Mukesh Bansal on its board, is already the country's largest buyer of trucks, and currently operates about 1,500 vehicles, and employs about 3,000 drivers. Rivigo's decision to file for a patent also comes at a time when lines have been drawn in the technology industry over software patents as tech majors and startups spar over allowing patenting of software.
"In India, computer programs, per se, are not part of the patent regime, and that sometimes makes it difficult for many Indian players to patent their technologies," said Kosturi Ghosh, partner at law firm Trilegal. "Licensing out the technologies certainly helps. The concept of prior art is inherent in many countries' patent laws, where if some technology exists is a market, then a new patent in another country, will not be allowed. Therefore, you can potentially earn some benefits as a defensive strategy of filing in the US, even though, you may not be using that technology there," Ghosh said.