Toyota is opening up royalty-free licensing for all of their hydrogen fuel cell patents

The Toyota Mirai, a real life hydrogen-powered car
By Derek Kessler on 5 Jan 2015 05:02 pm

Good news for the future of automobiles: Toyota announced today at CES 2015 that they are opening up all of their hydrogen fuel cell patents. Counting 5,680, the patents cover the breadth of Toyota's fuel cell technology development, and will be available for all to use for free for the next 15 years. The goal is, of course, to spur on the adoption of hydrogen-powered vehicles, with right now only Toyota's upcoming Mirai and the Honda FCX Clarity of 2008 in production.

Said Bob Carter, Senior Vice President of Automotive Operations at Toyota Motor Sales, USA, said:

"At Toyota, we believe that when good ideas are shared, great things can happen. 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."

The move mirrors June's open-sourcing of electric car patents held by Tesla. It's significant that Toyota has been working on hydrogen fuel cell technology for two decades, essentially open sourcing their work in a bid to get others on board with hydrogen fuel cell vehicles. Seventy of the patents pertain to hydrogen refueling stations, and will be available royalty-free indefinitely, while the rest related to the hydrogen fuel drive train will only be royalty-free until 2020.

Also, famed physicist Dr. Michio Kaku was there to provide some historical context. He pointed out that 150 years ago there was significant concern about the safety and reliability of gasoline powered vehicles as we're seeing today for hydrogen fuel cell cars. Whether or not Toyota's push to get more companies on board with hydrogen will be what pushes the infrastructure needs over the edge remains to be seen, but it's a positive development for alternate fuel automobiles overall.

Michio Kaku at CES 2015

Press release:

Toyota Opens the Door and Invites the Industry to the Hydrogen Future

*More than 5,600 fuel cell and related patents available for royalty free use

Patents include industry leading fuel cell technology used in new Toyota Mirai*

January 05, 2015
2015 CES - TMS SVP Bob Carter's speech

LAS VEGAS, (Jan. 5, 2015) – Toyota is opening the door to the hydrogen future, making available thousands of hydrogen fuel cell patents royalty free. Announced today at the 2015 Consumer Electronics Show, this Toyota initiative will spur development and introduction of innovative fuel cell technologies around the world.

Toyota will invite royalty-free use of approximately 5,680 fuel cell related patents held globally, including critical technologies developed for the new Toyota Mirai. 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.

"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."

Toyota has a long history of opening its intellectual properties through collaboration, and was instrumental in facilitating the widespread adoption of hybrid vehicles by licensing related patents. Today's announcement represents the first time that Toyota has made its patents available free of charge and reflects the company's aggressive support for developing a hydrogen-based society.

This Toyota initiative builds on previous commitments, including substantial 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 state-of-the-art hydrogen stations targeted for New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts, Connecticut and Rhode Island.

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. 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.

Today's announcement 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. Patents for hydrogen production and supply will remain open for an unlimited duration. 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.

Source: Toyota

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