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Did Ford really gave his EV patents away for free? Think again…

01.06.2015

Earlier this week came the news that Ford would open up its electric vehicle patents in order to support sustainability. The portfolio, which includes 650 patents and over 1000 applications focussing on specific electrical vehicle technology, would be open to the public. Many assumed that this meant that Ford was giving away its technology for free. A noble gesture of Ford one would assume, which thereby follows the footsteps of competitors Tesla and Toyota, who announced the same earlier this year.

 

However, one detail got lost in the buzz. Ford does not give away its patents for free. What it actually does, is opening up a part of its portfolio for licensing purpose. In order to use the portfolio or part thereof, interested parties have to contact Ford’s technology commercialization and licensing office or work through Autoharvest,  an automaker collaborative innovation and licensing marketplace. AutoHarvest allows members to showcase capabilities and technologies, then privately connect with fellow inventors to explore technology and business development opportunities of mutual interest.

 

And as Autoharvest mentions on its site: “the patents would be available for a fee”. As in: not for free.

 

The announcement of Ford is therefore rather a marketing stunt than anything else. Note that also Tesla and Toyota, who were very vocal about opening up their patents for free, never actually admitted that this would be for all eternity. In fact, both parties are still very dynamic in the patenting field, actively seeking patent protection for their ideas. The fact that they, at least temporarily, allow others to use their technology, should not be understood as an act of mere altruism. It should rather be seen as a business strategy, one that might provide them with a stronger competitive position in the end. Whilst still holding all the patents.

 


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