It Seems That EV Truck Makers Canoo and Bollinger Are Fighting Over An Idea I Had In 2013

Illustration for article titled It Seems That EV Truck Makers Canoo and Bollinger Are Fighting Over An Idea I Had In 2013
Screenshot: Jason Torchinsky

I’m an idea man. We all know this. I’m not claiming to be a good idea man, but I am saying that if you put liquids and food in one end of me, at some point ideas will come extruding out of the other end. It’s just how I work.

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It appears that from this flood of ideas, one seems to have actually caught the attention of an actual carmaker. I know this because they’re trying to patent it, and there are lawyers involved from another automaker and in the middle sits me, noted internet dipshit. All over an idea I had about putting an extra pickup bed on the front of a truck.

Just in case you’re having trouble finding the scrapbook you keep of my articles that you print out on a near daily basis, allow me to remind you: back in 2013, I had a vision of a better pickup truck future; a future where pickup trucks (especially electric ones) could have a bed at the front as well as the rear:

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Screenshot: Jason Torchinsky

I also coined the term “headgate” for the front gate, which you really can’t call a tailgate anymore, can you?

I had some other more schematic diagrams of the idea, including this electric truck version that I labeled as a potential Tesla, before anyone knew they’d be taking a very, um, different approach to their truck design:

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Screenshot: Jason Torchinsky

It’s not a complex idea. Essentially, it’s just a way to maximize the utility of a truck via packaging, taking advantages of platforms like the now-nearly-universal EV skateboard design by not offering just a trunk up front, but an actual, usable bed.

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Screenshot: Jason Torchinsky
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Four years later, in 2017, Bollinger showed its B1 SUV (which has the B2 pickup truck variation) and the design incorporated a front bed that looked pretty much just like my design, something I noted in a story that ran in July 2017. 

Bollinger’s design does include a novel pass-through that allows for items the full length of the truck to be carried, which is very cool.

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Still, fundamentally, same basic front-bed design.

Now, I didn’t really think too much of this; I didn’t have the resources to pursue an actual patent, and not being a patent attorney, I wasn’t even fully aware of whether it could be patented at all.

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Also, I’m kind of an idiot, so adding all those factors together means I didn’t really pursue legal protection beyond a hope that my publishing about it might mean something.

Well, fast forward to 2021 and an email I received from a law firm. The email explained that the firm was “researching prior art” on a patent matter and found my article. They wanted me to sign a declaration stating that I had come up with the idea for a story in 2013 and so on.

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This is the front page of that declaration:

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Screenshot: Jason Torchinsky
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Well, well, well, would you look at that! My pals over at Bollinger seem to have not just used that front bed idea, but they’re attempting to patent it as well, and are actively going after other companies — in this case, EV maker Canoo — to stop them from using front-bed like designs!

Now, I know the Canoo pickup design is a cab-over type of design without any appreciable hood, so I have to assume this is what they’re objecting to:

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Screenshot: Jason Torchinsky
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This is barely a front bed, but it does have a headgate like I drew in my diagrams. If Bollinger is going to try and stop other EV truck makers from using front compartment designs even as different as this, that strikes me as, well, some bullshit.

I’ll freely admit that when I got the emails from the lawyers, my first greedy thought was hey, can I get any cash out of this? Unfortunately, it doesn’t really look like I can. U.S. patent law no longer operates under old rules where things like a poor mans’ patent (mailing something to yourself to prove when you came up with it, etc.) could exist.

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The rules now basically state that any idea you publish, you have only a year to apply for a patent on it. Which means I’m just barely too late. I mean, geologically speaking, seven or so years is nothing.

But, it’s very much something to patents. So, I’m kind of boned. Even so, why the hell should Bollinger get to patent this? Personally, if I can’t have the patent, then fuck ’m, no one gets it. Every EV truck maker can have a glorious Torchinsky Front Bed with a nice flip-down headgate.

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I do not own Jalopnik, despite what the deed I bought from that dude in the primer-colored Civic says. So G/O Media’s lawyers are now involved, and they told me to sign nothing and let them subpoena me, or something.

They did say I could write about this, though, so that’s what’s happening right now.

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So, I’ll just make my thoughts public about all this, and let the lawyers fight it out:

This was my idea! I mean, it’s not splitting the atom, but Pet Rocks were a thing too, so it’s somewhere between those.

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While other front-loading vehicles have existed, like the Volkswagen factory-use-only plattenwagens, those were more like forklift/flatbed kind of things and not really the same as an enclosed bed with a headgate like this idea.

If I can’t patent this or reap any benefit, then I say go forth into the world, front-bed pickup, multiply and prosper. Bollinger, I like you, but, no, you can’t have this. You didn’t come up with it first, and even if I didn’t patent it, I don’t see why you should get to. Hard cheese, pals.

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So, Canoo, Rivian, Ford, GM, VW, hell, even Tesla, have at it. If one of you wants to call it a Torchbed in honor of my selfless gift unto truckmanity, then I would appreciate that.

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Screenshot: Jason Torchinsky
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It’s funny, even though I was instructed not to sign this, I generally agree with what’s said. I don’t think this law firm gives a pair of poops about what would benefit me, but in the case where there’s no way I can benefit, then I guess we have similar desires: Bollinger shouldn’t get to patent this.

I don’t really know where this will go, or even how the publication of this story may or may not affect what happens. But no matter what happens, if there’s a future that includes trucks with front beds and headgates, I’m going to be very proud to know that I may have had something to do with that.

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And maybe also a little bitter that I was too stupid to think about protecting the idea. I guess even if I did, G/O Media would have had the rights, anyway, though? Probably.

Oh. well. I just would have spent any money on dumb cars, anyway.

Senior Editor, Jalopnik • Running: 1973 VW Beetle, 2006 Scion xB, 1990 Nissan Pao, 1991 Yugo GV Plus, 2020 Changli EV • Not-so-running: 1977 Dodge Tioga RV (also, buy my book!: https://rb.gy/udnqhh)

DISCUSSION

dookiebird
Silas Von Dookiebird

OMG OMG OMG! Please have Torch testify. OMG. It’d be so spectacular!

“Mr Torchinsky, when did you first come up with this idea?”

“Well, in 1953, Volkswagen introduced a new air-cooled taillight called the arschenlichtendingenschlagenvorten. They had planned to install it on all Type II(a)(3)s built in the Scheweringen factory from 1954-1955. But...”

Defense counsel: “Objection, this is a bunch of weird crap about VW and taillights.”

Torch’s counsel: “Your honor, this is, like, his thing. People love this stuff.”

The judge: “I’ll allow it.”

three hours later

So after entering a fugue state after changing the radiator fluid in my VW bug, get it, they’re air cooled... oof, tough crowd, anyway, i thought ‘What could be better than a frunk for a truck. A fruck? Anyway...

two hours later

So that’s when I came up with the idea. 2013.