Ford to open electric car patents for a fee

Michael Martinez
The Detroit News

Ford Motor Co., following a similar move by Tesla Motors Inc. last year, said Thursday it will open its electric vehicle patentsfor a fee to competitors to help accelerate the development of those types of cars.

Among the hundreds of patents available to any interested automakers willing to pay include technology on electric vehicle braking systems and battery charging. Ford also said Thursday it will hire 200 engineers for electrified vehicles this year, and that the team would move into a newly dedicated Ford Engineering Laboratories facility in Dearborn.

“The way to provide the best technology is through constant development and progress,” Kevin Layden, director of Ford’s electrification programs, said in a statement. “By sharing our research with other companies, we will accelerate the growth of electrified vehicle technology and deliver even better products to customers.”

Ford said it has more than 650 electrified vehicle patents and about 1,000 pending patent applications on electrified vehicle technologies. Last year, Ford filed more than 400 patents dedicated to electrified vehicle technologies, accounting for more than 20 percent of the patents Ford filed in 2014.

Ford offers six hybrid or fully electrified vehicles: Ford Focus Electric; Fusion Hybrid; Fusion Energi plug-in hybrid; C-MAX Hybrid; C-MAX Energi plug-in hybrid; and Lincoln MKZ Hybrid.

Ford said interested parties can access the patents through AutoHarvest, a Detroit-based nonprofit that connects manufacturing-related inventors with investors, partners and advisers.

When asked how much the fees would be, a Ford spokesman wouldn’t comment directly, saying it would depend on a number of factors and “we want to be very reasonable with licensing to ensure that we can help push for broader EV adoption.”

Last June, Tesla CEO Elon Musk opened his automaker’s patents to help expand the adoption of electric vehicles. Tesla’s patents are free to access.

In a blog post, Musk said, “If we clear a path to the creation of compelling electric vehicles, but then lay intellectual property landmines behind us to inhibit others, we are acting in a manner contrary to that goal.”

At the time, Ford didn’t comment directly on whether or not it had made inquiries into Tesla’s technology, but said it was open to working with other automakers.

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