Rumor Wars: Episode II – The Phantom Patents

Rumors about new motorcycles get fed by many different sources. Sometimes word comes from a worker who whispers something to a friend, or sometimes the information comes at a party or event. However, there’s one source motorcycle journalists keep turning to when they want to know what a manufacturer is up to—the U.S. Patent Office. But this source might not be as solid as many would have you believe, so the attorneys who ride here at the Metier Law Firm are going to take a look at patents and how they feed motorcycle rumors.

Rumor Wars: Why Patents Aren’t Reliable Sources

Not long ago, we told you that Ducati was trying to turn your motorcycle exhaust into a jet engine. This sounds ridiculous, yet a patent that was found that gave credence to the rumor. We also told you about a rumor that Kawasaki was going to build a supercharged 600cc motorcycle, and after that there was a rumor that Honda was going to build a supercharged sportbike. All these rumors were fueled by patents, and most of them have been debunked, so why are people still using patents as a source?

A journalist at Ride Apart recently published a rumor that Honda was building a bike with an undertail exhaust and a V4 engine. He referenced a “patent” that was published on June 8th, 2017 to support the theory that Honda was going to release a V4 supersport. But one of the writers at Asphalt and Rubber decided to rain on his parade.

After examining the patent images, A&R confirmed that this patent had been filed December 4th, 2015, just before Honda released its RC213V-S superbike. The RC213V-S is a street model with a MotoGP-based V4 engine. It also has an exhaust system that matches what is depicted in the patent. Furthermore, the A&R journalist points out that the patent being referenced isn’t a patent at all, but a patent application. This means this document has been tied up in bureaucracy for one and a half years.

This is what makes using patents as a source for rumors so dangerous. You can’t quite be sure if what you’re looking at is cutting edge, or if it’s last year’s model finally cutting through all the red tape. Patents are also made to be ambiguous and that makes them unreliable. This same problem proved the downfall of a rumor that Kawasaki was building a supercharged 600cc bike. However, if used properly, some patents could be a clue to what lies in the future of the motorcycle industry. These pieces of paperwork can be released before the product they describe, and motojournalists will keep mining patents in the hopes that they find one such gem.

Tom Metier

Tom Metier

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