Uber – Surge Pricing and Patents

Uber provides a ride sharing app allowing riders to connect via the Uber app to Uber approved drivers. Uber has recently been in the press for all the wrong reasons, with the firm’s driver check policy being questioned in light of alleged reports that riders have been assaulted, raped and kidnapped.

Nevertheless, this has not stopped the continued expansion of the company and its plans to protect its Intellectual Property rights. In particular, Uber filed a patent application to protect its surge pricing technology. Surge pricing works by increasing the fare when demand is higher, in order to encourage more drivers and cars on to the road. During high demand scenarios, Uber’s pricing algorithm incrementally increases the price of the fare, with the intention of getting more Uber drivers on the road. The supply and demand approach was recently criticised following the Australian hostage crisis in Sydney on 15 December 2014, with prices increasing to four times its usual rate.

It will be interesting to see if this patent application will be successful with the US PTO and how Uber intends to overcome the obviousness provisions which have plagued its previous applications.

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