Competition for market share in mobile ride-sharing is fierce and costly. The price war between Uber and Lyft continues to spiral into lower price cuts while incumbents and regulators are even more focused on deviations from traditional frameworks. Yet, despite the increase in comparable platforms, the patent activity behind ride-sharing tells less disruptive story.

Envision IP recently collaborated with Deltasight to show that the number of ride-sharing patent applications has declined over the last decade, even after Uber’s market entry. Ride-sharing patenting commenced in 2000 with a single patent filing by Sidecar and it remained inactive until access-based consumption gained momentum as part of the sharing economy in 2009. Uber entered the market with 6 patent applications, and still maintains the largest portfolio in the group, without a surge in the number of related patent applications in the years after that.

Though the number of peer-to-peer ride-sharing companies has significantly increased since 2009, the peaks and troughs of competition are not as visible in the infographic of patent activity. The patenting timeline comprises few players and minimal activity which Liz Gannes thinks is bringing competition closer to cloning. Applications are starting to look more alike with the same key features including on-demand and scheduled servicing, and feedback and rating systems. Uber technology has even been integrated into Google Maps as a result of Google’s estimated 8% stake in the ride-sharing company.

The infographic highlights the number of different players in ride-sharing and some significant innovations over the last few years. It also shows a large degree of imitation – as in many contexts, competition, innovation, and imitation often go hand in hand.

The infographic can be found on Envision IP’s wesite

The patents behind ride-sharing: An imitation game
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