Toyota announced today that it would make more than 5,600 patents on fuel-cell technologies available for use, free of royalty payments, to a wide array of companies in the transportation sector.
Those patents include many granted for innovations that led to the production version of the Japanese maker's first hydrogen vehicle, the 2016 Toyota Mirai.
Announced this afternoon in Las Vegas at the 2015 Consumer Electronics Show, Toyota termed its offer as "opening the door to the hydrogen future" and inviting the industry to come in.
The company hopes to "spur development and introduction of innovative fuel cell technologies" globally.
2015 Hyundai Tucson Fuel Cell at Hyundai headquarters, Fountain Valley, CA
Toyota said the royalty-free use covers roughly 5,680 patents held globally, including 3,350 for software that controls the fueling system, 1,970 for fuel stacks, 290 related to high-pressure tanks for hydrogen fuel, and even 70 that are related to the production and supply of hydrogen.
The patents covering fuel-cell vehicles will be free of royalties through 2020, while those covering fuel production and supply are royalty-free for an unlimited time.
Toyota asks, but does not require, that companies licensing its technologies agree to share their own library of patents on similar terms.
Toyota noted that it had licensed many patents relating to its development over 20 years of the Hybrid Synergy Drive technology used in its many hybrid vehicles.
This, however, will be the first time the company has made patents available without charging a licensing fee--reflecting its "aggressive support for developing a hydrogen-based society."
“The first generation hydrogen fuel cell vehicles, launched between 2015 and 2020, will be critical," according to Bob Carter, Senior Vice President of Automotive Operations at Toyota Motor Sales USA.
2016 Toyota Mirai hydrogen fuel-cell car, Newport Beach, CA, Nov 2014
They will require "a concerted effort and unconventional collaboration [among] automakers, government regulators, academia and energy providers."
"By eliminating traditional corporate boundaries," Carter continued, "we can speed the development of new technologies and move into the future of mobility more quickly, effectively and economically.”
The patents are being offered to carmakers who build and sell hydrogen fuel-cell vehicles, along with their parts suppliers. Also covered are companies working on hydrogen buses and industrial equipment, like forklifts.
Toyota is also offering its patents to the energy companies that will have to build and run the networks of fueling stations that will supply cars running solely on hydrogen.
The company will provide details on the application process, licensing terms, and other information to interested companies on request.
Licensees will then negotiate individual contracts with Toyota.