Toyota Sharing 5,680 Fuel Cell Patents

In a move inspired by Tesla’s open-door patent policy, Toyota is making its hydrogen patents available to the whole industry.

Toyota stated it is opening the way to a hydrogen future, making available thousands of hydrogen fuel cell patents royalty free.

Announcing this today at the 2015 Consumer Electronics Show (CES), this Toyota initiative has been made in hopes of spurring development and introduction of innovative fuel cell technologies around the world.

Toyota added it will invite royalty-free use of approximately 5,680 fuel cell related patents held globally, including technologies developed for the new Toyota Mirai, due to launch as a 2016 model.

The list includes 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, according to the Japanese manufacturer.

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“At Toyota, we believe that when good ideas are shared, great things can happen,” said Bob Carter, Senior Vice President of Automotive Operations at Toyota Motor Sales, USA Inc. “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. 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.”

This announcement marks the first time that Toyota has made its patents available free of charge and, per Toyota, reflects the company’s aggressive support for developing a hydrogen-based society.

This Toyota initiative follows previous commitments, including financial support for the development of a hydrogen fueling infrastructure in California and the northeastern United States. In May 2014, Toyota announced a $7.3 million loan to FirstElement Fuels to support the operations and maintenance of 19 hydrogen fueling stations across California. In November 2014, Toyota announced a collaboration with Air Liquide to develop and supply a phased network of 12 hydrogen stations targeted for New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Connecticut and Rhode Island.

Toyota explained the hydrogen fuel cell patents will be made available to automakers who will produce and sell fuel cell vehicles, as well as to fuel cell parts suppliers and energy companies who establish and operate fueling stations, through the initial market introduction period, anticipated to last until 2020. Companies working to develop and introduce fuel cell busses and industrial equipment, such as forklifts, are also covered. Toyota added requests from parts suppliers and companies looking to adapt fuel cell technology outside of the transportation sector will be evaluated on a case by case basis.

Reading the fine prints of this announcement, one realizes this covers only fuel cell-related patents wholly owned by Toyota; patents related to fuel cell vehicles will be available for royalty-free licenses until the end of 2020 while atents for hydrogen production and supply will remain open for an unlimited duration.

The company also stated as part of licensing agreements, Toyota will request, but will not require, that other companies share their fuel cell-related patents with Toyota for similar royalty-free use.