Toyota Releases 5,600 Fuel Cell Patents In Tesla-esque Move
At the 2015 International Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in Las Vegas, Toyota announced that now, more than 5,600 fuel cell patents they once owned are now free to use by almost anyone. The now royalty-free patents are a combination of 3.350 fuel cell system software, 1,970 fuel cell stacks, 290 high-pressure hydrogen tanks and 70 hydrogen productions and supply patents.
At Toyota, we believe that when good ideas are shared, great things can happen,” said Bob Carter, Senior VP of Automotive Operations at Toyota Motor Sales. “The first-generation hydrogen fuel cell vehicles, launched between 2015 and 2020, will be critical, requiring a concerted effort and unconventional collaboration between automakers, government regulators, academia and energy providers.
Royalty-Free, But With a Catch
The catch to Toyota’s “good will” move is that the patents are only available to automakers that produce and sell fuel cell vehicles (FCVs), industrial equipment designers, hydrogen-powered bus manufacturers and energy companies looking to operate fuel stations, such as Tesla’s Supercharger. There’s also a deadline on how long this agreement will last, which Toyota says is 2020.
Manufacturers, who aren’t already a part of the transportation industry, have to apply and negotiate a contract with Toyota. Each applicant will be evaluated on a case-by-case basis.
Toyota Following in Tesla’s Footsteps
The move is approximately seven months after Elon Musk announced he was tearing down the wall of patents in the Tesla headquarters. Prior to the teardown, Musk wanted to keep patents to the company because he feared they would be overpowered by larger car manufacturers.
“We couldn’t have been more wrong,” he explained. “Electric car programs (or programs for any vehicle that doesn’t burn hydrocarbons) at the major manufacturers are small to non-existent, constituting an average of far less than 1% of their total vehicle sales.”
In a press release titled “All Our Patents Are Belong To You,” Musk expressed his reasoning behind making all of the patents free to use for innovators and engineers.
“If we clear a path to the creation of compelling electric vehicles, but then lay intellectual property landmines behind us to inhibit others, we are acting in a manner contrary to that goal,” said Musk. “Tesla will not initiate patent lawsuits against anyone who, in good faith, wants to use our technology.”
“Given that annual new vehicle production is approaching 100 million per year and the global fleet is approximately 2 billion cars, it is impossible for Tesla to build electric cars fast enough to address the carbon crisis,” he continued. “We believe that Tesla, other companies making electric cars, and the world would all benefit from a common, rapidly-evolving technology platform.”
It looks like the patents that Toyota is releasing will serve a similar purpose.
“By eliminating traditional corporate boundaries, we can speed the development of new technologies and move into the future of mobility more quickly, effectively and economically,” Carter said.
Whether or not it will be an easy process to utilize the patents will be up to Toyota. The open-source movement seems to be taking off, with people feeling that the betterment of humanity makes for good business practices in the long run.
Photograph courtesy of Wikipedia; other images from Shutterstock.