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Toyota to Tesla: we can play the free patent game as well

Thousands of hydrogen fuel cell patents to go royalty-free

CES 2015 Toyota has taken a gauntlet and tossed it in the general direction of Elon Musk, telling the CES audience it will loose a hoard of patents relating to hydrogen fuel-cell cars on the world.

The 5,650 patents to be made royalty-free between now and 2020 cover “approximately 1,970 patents related to fuel cell stacks, 290 associated with high-pressure hydrogen tanks, 3,350 related to fuel cell system software control and 70 patents related to hydrogen production and supply”, the company says.

Like Tesla's release of electric vehicle patents, the Toyota move is a strategy to drive adoption of hydrogen fuel cell technology in the car market worldwide.

Like Tesla, Toyota is hoping that being more generous with its IP will help create scale up the market for its fuel cell cars, while keeping it at the centre of the ecosystem.

Companies will be able to negotiate use of Toyota's patents on an individual basis, and although the Japanese giant might request access to applicants' patents on a similar basis, that won't be a condition of deals, according to SVP of automotive operations Bob Carter, who spoke to the CES audience.

Carter said getting the first round of fuel-cell vehicles to market is going to need “a concerted and unconventional collaboration between auto makers, government regulators, academia and energy providers”.

As well as vehicle companies, Toyota's patents will be available to component makers and energy companies wanting to set up fuelling stations.

Toyota will be launching its first fuel cell vehicle, the Mirai, later this year. ®


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