Ford offering electric vehicle patents to competitors for a fee

Article by Andrew Christian, on June 2, 2015

Ford Motor Co. is offering its electric-car technology patents to rivals as part of a move to hasten the development of electric vehicles. While some may regard it as following Tesla Motors footsteps, the difference is that Ford’s hundreds of patents are available for a fee while Tesla’s own patents have been released to the public domain last year absolutely for free.

In a statement, Kevin Layden, director of Ford electrification programs, said that the company’s goal is “innovation.” He added that to offer the best technology, progress and development have to be constant. He explained that by sharing their research with others, electrified vehicle technology will grow quicker and the customers will get better products.

Ford currently has over 650 patents and approximately 1,000 pending patent applications associated with hybrid and plug-in vehicles. Last year, Ford filed over 400 patents for electrified vehicle technologies. These make up more than 1/5 of its filings in 2014. This year, the automaker is planning to hire 200 more electrified-vehicle engineers.

Included in the Ford patents that have been opened are those related to a method that extends battery run time as well as overall life, a technology that maximizes how much energy is recaptured via regenerative braking, and a system that looks at how a person drives and gives feedback on how to boost fuel economy.

Ford announced that its patents can be accessed via its technology commercialization and licensing office. Interested parties can also go to the non-profit group AutoHarvest Foundation that the automaker helped establish in 2012. Previously, some of Ford’s other patents have been made available for licensing via AutoHarvest.

These include those for inflatable seat belts. According to a Ford spokesman, the costs for obtaining the patents vary, from the “hundreds” to the “thousands.” The exact prices have not yet been made available. Almost a year ago, Tesla CEO Elon Musk shocked the auto industry by releasing its patents for free.

By doing this, Tesla denied itself licensing revenue in the hopes that there will be a broader acceptance of electric vehicles and it will reap more success for the brand. Tesla also believes that other companies will be encouraged to take on the standards that it had come up with, strengthening its position as the leader in this kind of technology and benefitting its consumers.

In a blog post to announce its news, Musk wrote that its “true competition” is not the few non-Tesla electric cars being built, but instead, it is the “enormous flood of gasoline cars” built daily around the world.

He also wrote that the patents don’t define technology leadership as they don’t protect against a fierce rival. Rather, it is how the company is able to pull in and motivate the most talented engineers in the world. He also said that by offering its patents as open source, Tesla’s position will be strengthened instead of diminished.

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