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All of Toyota’s electric vehicle patents are now royalty-free (topgear.com)
464 points by e2e4 17 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 120 comments



Someone has to read the actual legal verbage. For example, to quote https://twitter.com/Tweetermeyer/status/1092570451329441792 on Tesla's free patents - "A common belief is that anyone using Tesla's patents has to give Tesla access to its patents, but that's not quite accurate. To meet Tesla's "good faith" standard, you can't have asserted an EV-related patent or IP right against ANYONE."

Start with the actual press release: https://global.toyota/en/newsroom/corporate/27512455.html

which links to:

https://toyota.jp/cmpn/gp/ma/dc/electrification-technologies... - whose title is "Inquiry regarding royalty-free availability of electrification technologies up to 2030"


So in order to take advantage of Tesla patents, you can't be suing anyone else on EV-related patents of your own?

That actually sounds like an interesting and positive side-effect, or am I missing something here?


Sort of sounds like GPL, but for patents. Maybe this is the way to fix the patent system? Build huge portfolios that grant people use of them so long as they are not suing anybody for any payments they hold.


As someone who doesn’t know much about patents: what exactly would you sue someone for if they used a good-faith patent while not meeting the conditions of the good-faith clause?

How do you normally sue over a patent violation? Some estimation of damages in comparison to a hypothetical world where the patent wasn’t violated, then multiplied by some number so that it’s not worthwhile to violate patents constantly given that the court can’t prosecute every case?

It would seem as if the good-faith clause is basically asserting there aren’t damages in comparison to a world where the patent isn’t violated (or that usage is actually positive so long as it’s not used by someone who is collecting rent on their own patents.)


If Toyota acted in "bad-faith" by suing a third party (say Nissan) then Tesla could act to revoke their patent licenses to Toyota.

Once they had done so, it would be a standard patent infringement lawsuit between Tesla and Toyota.

This could be one path where you could enforce good-faith, IMHO IANAL.


Unfortunately this wouldn't stop anyone from transferring the patents to another legal entity that will grant the original company full right to use them but sue everybody else.


You could also make provisions to prevent that, as well.

If I cam granting use of my patent to you, I could request you put on a red fedora every day -- and if you fail to do so, then I will revoke you right to use the patent. You have to chose, put on that fedora, or don't use my patent. I guess you could chose to use the patent and be sued...

In any case, I am sure a document worded just right would either prevent that patent being used by a company who does not want to comply, or a lawsuit for violating the patent.

It could be simply put -- if you use this patent you may do so given the following. 1) You grant others the right to use your patents free of charge. 2) You don't sell your patents to any 3rd party.

I am sure there is some other things that might need to be covered.


Create two companies: one for using patents and one for suing!


Except almost worse. You can choose to not use a piece of GPL software. You might very well accidentally invent something simple that turns out to be patented.


How is it worse than if Tesla was aggressively perusing their patents? It's the patent system itself that you have a problem with. Tesla's patent sharing scheme only makes things potentially better for other inventors.


I suppose worse is a matter of perspective, but I think the OP is right that at some scale, someone could be dragged into this good faith deal, like it or not.

Independently invent something. Turns out it's already patented, within this good faith consortium. Now the only way to use it is by participating. Normally, this kind of thing results in getting sued for royalties.


I don't think they would be dragged into it. Just don't use any of the patents in the portfolio that has this clause. You had no right to use them before the clause.


Or negotiate a royalty.


> Normally, this kind of thing results in getting sued for royalties.

You have answered it. Free patent, GPL or not, you'd have this problem. And it's even worse on "normal" cases.


You might also very well accidentally write a piece of code that is not more than trivially different from some GPL code. In fact, I would argue that is much more likely.

I've contributed quite a few patches to open source projects, and sometimes if I'll review other patches I cannot tell the difference between code I've written or that others had written.


This actually doesn't sound like a side effect, but, rather, an intended one: an attempt to contaminate patenting in the industry.

I find it a smart move. Not sure what it really bears though: "for the greater good of the industry" incentive or just a PR move with a string attached.


I have a more optimistic view: Tesla is simply saying that you can live in a post-patent world, or not.

Of course as a company late to the automotive game it benefits Tesla to neutralise the legal quagmire of patents. But fair enough I say. If their patents are valuable enough, they might get some traction.


Perhaps they believe they have enough of a head-start that they has more to gain from a more or less patent free industry than they have from having patents, but then also having to deal with every ankle-biter who claims to have a relevant patent.


The MS-PL software license has a similar clause, but it's just if you make a patent claim against a contributor you lose the right to any of their patents immediately. It's a strange little MIT-esque license with a patent clause that I think makes sense. The Tesla clause sounds a little different but yeah it's a good thing. It means don't fight over patents if you're getting access to ours royalty free, then don't be a douchebag. But it's problematic if someone else uses your patents and screws you completely in the process.

License full text here for MS-PL:

https://www.copyleftlicense.com/licenses/microsoft-public-li...


> So in order to take advantage of Tesla patents, you can't be suing anyone else on EV-related patents of your own?

What you states is true, but you also cannot assert "any patent or other intellectual property right against Tesla"; with no restriction in terms of relation to EV or whether or not it is a patent. You use one of Tesla's patents? Now they are free to use any of your trademarks, use the software you wrote for your sound system, etc.

It really is a PR item for Tesla that is impossible for any company to take advantage of.


I'm not familiar enough with the automotive industry to know.

To make some rough strawman examples: If a smaller/startup company gives away patents under a "good-faith" condition, it may at best help other startups try to come up to develop the market - perhaps that was Tesla's intent at the time.

If a larger company does this, I'm a bit more confused on intent - perhaps it might be seen as an 'option' in addition to traditional licensing. Where one can either pay for a license or optionally get a free license in exchange for not asserting patent rights against the larger company later on.

I've seen cases where a smaller company may exert patent rights on something seemingly obvious on the industry (they filed the patent, and some judge in Marshall, Texas enforced it), and ends up becoming a method of sharing patent rights with other companies in the industry (e.g. smaller company exerts patent rights, larger company discovers smaller company is infringing on their patents, lawyers end up sitting down and negotiating some license for license agreement). This may be changing a bit with the changes in how patent holders choose courts (see https://www.bloomberg.com/opinion/articles/2017-05-25/the-te... )


Only startups with nothing to lose would take this deal.


The press release mentions a previous 2015 fuel cell patents initiative. Press release for that at https://global.toyota/en/detail/4663648 ... stories about it were submitted to HN a bunch of times, to no discussion. I wonder what the impact of that 2015 release has been?

How is this legal? Like I can put together a gizmo in my garage, never looking at Toyota, let alone signing a licensing agreement with them, but because I happen to duplicate their design I now am in a legally binding agreement with them? I really should invent something commonplace and then create a funky license for it like that.


That’s what patents are.


I am not talking about patents being weird. Normally if I invent a thing and it turns out someone already invented it and patented it before me, I either don’t use it or pay royalties. But here we have a weird legal setup where instead of simply owing money to someone I can be compelled to do other shit. Is there a limit on it? Can patents enter into their portfolio retroactively? It is weird that a company who have never done business with can compel you to do certain things that have nothing to do with their IP.


Nothing about the existence of a no-fee licensing arrangement requires your automatic use of it. It's just normal patent infringement if you don't.


Nothing about the existence of a no-fee licensing arrangement disincludes the existence of a fee-based licensing arrangement which already exist, as well, no?


Yes, just as nothing about the existence of a no-free licensing arrangement dis-includes water from making you wet.


I can see a small niche for hybrids, a small, constant speed engine coupled to a charger to get you past dead spots with no chargers, but the handwriting is on the wall for IC passenger vehicles, and possibly for long haul trucks. While it is true that gas/diesel has a higher energy per tank as well as a faster tank 'fill' time, this does not make up for the far higher cost per mile for the liquid fuels, AND the complexity of thousands of small parts threshing and wearing away. Electric motors are routinely made to run for 100,000 hours and upwards, because they have rotary bearings and only torque to contend with versus the 2500 rpm of IC engines with bearing impact bangs of the IC engine many times per revolution, and the timing belts, and the tappets hammering and the valves burning away, and the muffler and pollution control gizmos rotting and crumbling away. And brakes, with regenerative braking (which wears nothing) we have already seen brake linings on Teslas and others hit 500,000 miles - more? I can see an era of polyurethane(PU) tires also good for 500,000 miles. They cost more, but they run more and are a lot tougher against road damage than rubber. Sure, any fool can burn rubber and jam on the brakes and, in effect, burn $$ to kill them faster, but I am betting that regen braking as well as more AI in the control box that has the potential to avoid almost all friction based braking, because that AI knows your route (mostly - from experience), when to slow with regen for the turns and curves. The moving hand writes, pauses, points it's thumbs down, and moves on. IC engines are in a downwards race to nowhere.

It looks like there is no lithium shortage at all. Cobalt looks like a scarcer element, which adds cost, but electrode design is improving almost monthly and less cobalt is needed. In addition, cobalt is a recyclable material and this will soon be almost 100% captured for re-use, as the growing shortage drives the reward for recycling it.


> Electric motors are routinely made to run for 100,000 hours and upwards, because they have rotary bearings and only torque to contend with versus the 2500 rpm of IC engines with bearing impact bangs of the IC engine many times per revolution, and the timing belts, and the tappets hammering and the valves burning away, and the muffler and pollution control gizmos rotting and crumbling away.

This is why the series hybrids don't really make sense. If you have to add an engine to generate electricity then it needs a fuel tank, a cooling system, an exhaust system, etc. By the time you add all of that stuff, you might as well just use that cost and weight to put in a bigger battery.

There is no technical reason you can't use an arbitrarily large battery to get arbitrarily long range, it's just that the incremental cost exceeds the incremental benefit for most people, so the current EVs are targeting the much larger number of people who don't actually need that much range. They're also supply constrained on battery production right now, so targeting the niche that requires a very large battery doesn't make sense yet.

This is somewhat what I would expect to eventually see out of a pickup or something that competes with a Chevy Suburban. You have a large vehicle, so plenty of room for batteries in the floor, which you also need to get reasonable range when transporting heavy loads. But then if you're not transporting a heavy load, the same batteries provide much more range than a vehicle which is trying to be spry and sporty.


I think battery tech needs to be much cheaper for it to really answer peoples’ needs. But I do see the situations you’re describing. A half ton truck can afford a pretty hefty battery pack, weight wise. Budget wise it gets pricy quickly. I wonder what sort of battery could be afforded in a larger chassis that’d normally go for 90k, though.


> I think battery tech needs to be much cheaper for it to really answer peoples’ needs.

Yes, absolutely, which is what's happening. Lithium battery prices have been falling for years. The price today is too high for a competitive light truck. The price in four or five years time, however?


Ecars already have cooling systems, etc. The myth that ecars are more simple is just that. A myth.


Well, ecars ARE simpler, mechanically. IC cars drive the A/C from a pulley on the motor. This means there is a path for high pressure refrigerant gases to the atmosphere. In variably in 2-3 years you lose gas == $$ for the dealers. ecars use a sealed system, like a home refrigeration unit = no gas leakage path. There is another cooling path for the batteries to get rid of the charge/discharge heat, this is another fully sealed fluid circulating system that only leaks in some accident


Why not have the standard 400 km battery pack in the car, and another auxiliary 400 km battery pack that one could place in the trunk, on the roof, on the backseat floor, in the frunk, etc, only when needed?


Thing is heavy, you'll need a crane in the garage.


Sadly, hybrids make sense to the degree that batteries don't. Although an electric motor and its rudimentary cooling system are trivial compared to a combustion engine and it's attendant systems, it starts to make sense when you consider that 1 gallon of gasoline buys you the energy available from a ~40 kWh battery.

Heck, battery electrics arent' even strictly dominant over hydrogen electrics. Hydrogen makes a lot of sense in some applications, what does it say about batteries if people are willing to go to the hassle of developing fuel cells just to get around chemical batteries?


I think they trye to get the density and fast fill ability of a fluid system, but Hydrogen is an economic failure. Hydrogen is so light that it takes a huge strong tank if compressed and if liquid a huge cooled dewar tank. Hydrogen can be made to work in special cases, not for workaday driving


As someone who owns a long range EV I don't see trucking/towing going away soonish. Even towing marginal 6-8k loads we see ~11mpg in our efficient truck(v6 turbodiesel). The energy density just isn't there for 100mi+ trips.

That said I'd kill for a diesel electric truck, love the torque and smoothness of our EV.


Tesla’s new Raven motors and a more energy dense pack based off the 2170 cells in the Model 3 make this use case within reach. Their Semi is dragging a 80k tractor trailer load (concrete blocks) around to demonstrate the high end working.

Disclaimer: I occasionally tow ~2500lbs with my Model S. Works very well, no Auotpilot though while towing.


While I think you're right, I do want to correct you on something.

Class 8 trucks like the Tesla semi have an 80,000 pound total weight, hence the name 'Class 8'. Typically the truck and trailer weighs 32,000 pounds leaving 48,000 pounds for cargo. Average cargo weights are in the 35,000 pound to 45,000 pound range. If the Tesla semi significantly raises the empty weight of the truck it will limit the amount of cargo that can be carried. A load of toys will be nowhere near the weight limit but a load of milk products will easily exceed it.

Some states allow increased Class 8 loads as high as 115,000 pounds, mitigating the weight issue.

My guess is that Tesla will try as hard as possible to match the weight of existing trucks. It is interesting that they haven't released weights, perhaps because they don't yet know or because it is bad news. If it was lighter I imagine Elon would have mentioned it multiple times in tweets.

https://www.teslarati.com/how-much-tesla-semi-truck-battery-...


> It is interesting that they haven't released weights, perhaps because they don't yet know or because it is bad news.

I'm guessing the bad news part.

My Half-Ton Silverado Crew Cab's (That's the 4-door smallest full-size pickup) curb weight is 4,942 lbs. The heaviest Tesla Model S' (biggest battery I assume) curb weight is 4,941 lbs.

More weight spent on the cab and trailer is less weight spent on cargo, and money in the trucking industry is driven by how much you can carry (Speed is restricted, hours of driving are restricted, but amount cargo - other than weight - is not).


For metric people: Class N3 (35 tons), some states allow Class N4 (52 tons).


Definitely makes more sense in the tractor-trailer market, where the additional battery cost will be easier to account for. Doubling the price of a pickup is probably a no-go, so a few more years at least before the pricing gets acceptable there.


How much does the range degrade when towing?


I lose 40-50% of range, depending on the weight and aerodynamic profile of the load; went with a 100D to mitigate the reduced towing range.


I wonder how much range you could get back with a trailer equipped with regenerative breaking? Or if it would be too much for the battery to cope with?


The vehicle recovers the collective momentum of both it and the trailer when braking.


The trailer is unbreaked? That seems rather dangerous!


Only need trailer brakes if the gross weight is above 3000lbs in my jurisdiction. I also keep the speed reasonable when towing to prevent jackknifing or oscillation.


I think I implicitly assumed that the 40% reduction in range you mentioned was due to a larger load than it sounds like you are carrying. It would be interesting to see if the car was using regenerative braking less with the increased load. Also the break down of where the extra energy is going (i.e. aero, rolling resistance, hills and acceleration etc). Would depend a lot on the type of driving you are doing, but I would have imagined that extra mass is less of a problem for electric vehicles since there is the opportunity to recover potential energy.


Its the aerodynamics for sure that kill my range and double my per mile energy usage. Petrol tow vehicles have so much more energy density available to them, their aerodynamics are less of an issue.

Still, no problems towing a Waverunner to the beach or an antique sewing machine to a friend’s house from a craigslist find.


Sounds like an opportunity for trailer manufacturers to make aero trailers for electric vehicles...


Indeed!


> diesel electric truck

Ford my actually provide you with that. They showed a Ford Transit in Amsterdam last week. It has 75kW battery with 200km range, but you can order a diesel powered range extender for it.

I think Tesla should partner up with a company that could add a range extender to the frunk.


The entire design of Tesla's vehicles is based around no firewall, no exhaust system. They would have to put that all back in if they added an ICE.


My napkin-math calculation suggests that to have an electric pickup capable of replacing our F150, I'd need a battery pack that would capable of pushing a Model S a thousand miles. Definitely within the realm of possibility, but introduces a non-trivial amount of extra cost at current battery pricing, and compounds the hassle of recharging.

So I agree, we are quite a ways off yet from plausibly displacing ICE from pickups. At least in the full size pickups. Seems a bit more plausible in the Colorado/Ranger/Tacoma sized pickups that are less often used for towing.


I may be wrong, but you only need the extra battery capacity when towing. So it's possible that your trailer could be equipped with the extra batteries.


That makes things worse, usually you want to less weight on the trailer. Right now I've got a 7.5k towing capacity, if a pack weighs 2-3k that cuts my towing capacity in half.


Do you typically have things in the bed when towing? Just brainstorming, a removable battery pack that sits in the bed for when you're hauling would save weight when your not hauling.

Is the towing capacity limited by the drivetrain or chassis? If it's drivetrain then I suppose that it does not help to move the batteries to the bed. But if you're chassis limited, then keeping those batteries off the towhook would help, no?


Most pickups reach payload capacity before the tow rating itself is reached. Payload includes everything -- driver, passengers, cargo, anywhere in the truck.

To an extent, putting the batteries in the trailer does make a little more sense since it won't count 1 for 1 against payload (typically about 10-15% of the trailer weight will be on the tongue, for safety).

For some reason I actually got downvoted for saying it in my original comment, but cost is a big consideration for now and why I think we're a ways off yet from full size EV pickups. Takes a big battery pack to tow an open parachute (what it feels like towing a high frontal area trailer ;-)) 300 miles a day. And then it has to be recharged, which can be a problem given that most people take RVs places that don't have great infrastructure.


Yeah, not sure why you were down voted. As an EV and truck owner your comment was pretty on the mark.


Locomotives have been diesel-electric hybrids for decades, so it probably makes a lot of sense for trucking, I agree.


Locomotives do that because they need to power many wheels, and because they need huge torque at zero speed to get started. Trying to do that with a very large clutch is painful. (There are locomotive-sized clutches for some smaller locomotives, and British Rail was once into that approach, but it's obsolete.) Modern locomotives run the motors as synchronous AC servomotors, locking all the wheels together in software.

Freightliner has an electric semitruck.[1] So do MAN, Mercedes, Mitsubishi, etc.

[1] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qwI4Wt5Av3k


Yeah, I've always been curious if running a diesel motor at optimum RPM offsets the conversions loss.


Won't it be inefficient to convert engine displacement - > charge - > vehicle displacement again?

I wonder if it is instead possible to have a universal battery installer. A universal battery pack that serves the same purpose as what you suggest, the size of a small engine + petrol tank.

One that is cross compatible with all electric cars. (the hard part) maybe it can be a section in the boot itself. So when not in use, it is simply boot space. (will be easier to be universally. Compatible too) as long as there is a power in the boot.

You pick one up from a store and as long you return it to another store inside of a few hours, you are only charged the cost of electricity + battery rental.


The trouble with this is that the amount of battery it takes to be equivalent to a tank of gasoline weighs on the order of a thousand pounds. They only get away with it as part of the car because the electric motor is light (~70 pounds compared to ~400 for a gasoline engine) and you also eliminate the fuel tank, transmission, exhaust system, etc.

The battery is also large enough that the shape is dictated by the shape of the car. Making them easily swappable wouldn't be easy.

The more likely solution is to just increase the number of charging points, and then have models specifically designed with larger batteries for people who need longer ranges.

The existing ranges are already sufficient for typical usage. Most people rarely drive more than 300 miles in one day, and almost never drive more than 600 miles in one day, so we're already at the point that on 99% of days you don't have to care about it at all and then on the occasional road trip you have to stop for an hour out of every five to have a meal and charge the vehicle.


This is the real "sharing economy"! The planet is not going to be survivable for humans and many other species if we don't start cooperating. If that means one has to give up enforcing their own patents in order to take advantage of these from Toyota, then so be it.

We love Star Trek, where the "...economics of the future are somewhat different..." where "...we work to better ourselves, and the rest of humanity..." So maybe this is the actual true beginning of cooperation that will make our collective future possible...


Building more cars is not going to be anyone survive. We need to get away from individual transport.


Though that may be true from a sustainability standpoint, that is not the future that I want my children to live in. A future where everyone must like (go to) the same parks, everyone must go to the same shops, everyone must go to the workplace accessible from their home or live in the home accessible from their workplace.

Individualism is gravely important to humans. Getting away from individual transport is relinquishing all hope of individual determinism.


How about your children breathing the same air as everyone else and sharing the same planet? Cars are a small exception in the way human have been moving around.


Definitely positive, regardless of motives. One number that jumped out was 23.740 patents in 20 years! That’s almost 23 patents every -week-.

Is that normal for a company Toyota’s size? Do Apple, Samsung and others file the same amount in their fields?


Surprisingly, or maybe not, IBM is the company that has been producing the largest amount of patents per year by a huge margin. In 2017 they managed to get around 9000, about 25 per day.

I used to work at IBM and having your name on patents was one of the most important things in order to rise through the ranks. Past a point, you could not go higher without some significant activity in the patents realm. There were many patent groups, many talks about it, there was a 'patent score' that people had in their email signature etc. You were also rewarded financially for each one.

In my humble opinion, this was a bunch of corporate bullshit. I've interacted with many people who had an impressive amount of patents and I was always disappointed. Their average patent was something along the lines of: a different way to use the browser history, a color-based way of handling support tickets, adding a list of blacklisted websites to a broswer or similar. It's hard to remember them because they were all unmemorable. Nothing was of substance or something worth being implemented.


Thanks for explaining. Mind boggling stuff... how can things like that even be patented? By those standards I could have filed a few myself ;-)


> By those standards I could have filed a few myself ;-)

You most definitely can, but you should remember that filing for a patent is very expensive. :)

This was years ago, so I cannot remember all the details, but I did attend one or two patent workshops/talks, so I think can can weigh in on this.

Basically, there are a few criteria for a certain submission to be patentable, the most important of which was novelty. There were some others, such as not simply combining exiting technologies to create something obvious (IIRC something called 'inventive step' or something like that), but largely it revolved around it being new.

As you might imagine, the above is somewhat interpretable, so a lot of these could go through if they were a tiny bit novel in their approach. Even if your idea was not patented, your idea might still be published as a white paper just so that others could not then invent something similar. By exposing that idea to the outside world, it became public knowledge, so HP could not go and patent something similar.

I remember being told it's all about the mindset. You don't have to be particularly bright or have some 'divine' spark, you just needed to take a problem/functionality/thing and turn it fiddle with it until you get something new, then do some research (there was special software for this) to see if it already exists, get someone internal to review it (a Master Inventor, as they were called), get in touch with the internal lawyers and send it for review.


When I have an idea for something, usually someone else has already been working on it. I remember when I read about peltier cooling in high school in popular mechanics or something like that, and I thought "this would be a neat way to cool a microprocessor". Practically the next week, it seemed like, Apple came out with the Power Mac 8100/110, which was the first personal computer (that I know of anyway) that had that cooling technique.


Is there a guide you'd recommend for filing a patent? I have an idea that I'd like to patent. I genuinely think its very novel and my goal is to use it in my work and license it to others.


Unfortunately, I don't know much about that. The only such guides I've seen were internal documents.


> a different way to use the browser history, a color-based way of handling support tickets, adding a list of blacklisted websites to a broswer or similar.

please, please and please.

All three of those sound terrific and I'd like the two browser related ones implemented in chrome asap.


There is a myriad of Chrome/Firefox plugins that do just that, you just have to look through them.

That's very much normal, especially for a manufacturing company.

(A software company has copyright. For a manufacturing company, patents serve as the primary method for exclusivity on their designs.)


that's what i was thinking. to me, it is a symptom of the broken patent system. when i see a patent, it is often for something rather obvious. it was my understanding that patents were to be for actually novel improvements, not just some improvement that if people in the industry thought for a second on they'd come up with it too.


I can’t tell what their motivation is... it cost a lot of money to file 24k patents to now just give away. Toyota isn’t exactly a charity or an “open source” company.


My guess is that it's a game theory move.

No one wants to be making electric cars until everyone is making electric cars.

Everyone wants to make electric cars, but no one wants to step out in front.

Now that we're seeing Tesla succeed, I suspect the bit is being flipped, and a lot of companies are trying to convince each other that we should all jump into making electric cars now.

Opening up patent libraries lowers the barriers for others. It's grabbing the hand of the kid next to you before you all jump off the dock together to go swimming. It doesn't fundamentally change the nature of the landscape, but it makes it easier to get started.


In addition - you defacto set the standard, without ever holding a single standardization meeting.


Is there really an example that would prove that this ever happens? Aren't patents usually just clever ways of doing things, not necessarily decisions about the exact dimensions/contacts/voltages/etc. All other manufacturers could easily just take patents and make their own standards based on them?


FireWire failed for its patents from Apple. Intel didn't want to develop around a port with a $1/port royalty.

It took over another decade to move beyond 5V charging.


Intel provided another great example of this recently: Thunderbolt 3 controllers used to cost quite a bit, so they weren't included in lower-cost devices.

They saw that that didn't work out that well for them and made it royalty-free. Now it's basically the new USB standard.


> Now it's basically the new USB standard.

Not even basically. It is USB 4: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/USB#USB4


Aren't patents usually just clever ways of doing things

One would hope, but from reading Groklaw back in the day and HN now, it doesn't seem so.


> Everyone wants to make electric cars, but no one wants to step out in front.

Volkswagen has already stepped out in front. VW is investing 80 billion euros in their electric car effort:

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-volkswagen-electric-insig...

VW will be the biggest producer of electric cars in a few years.

> a lot of companies are trying to convince each other that we should all jump into making electric cars now

They need to make electric cars now to meet EU and Chinese emissions fleet emissions targets:

http://fortune.com/2018/12/20/volkswagen-electric-cars-emiss...

https://www.cnet.com/roadshow/news/vw-group-more-evs-carbon-...

In the future new car sales of ICE vehicles will be banned and ICE cars will be banned from some cities, in some places as soon as 2030:

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-autos-emissions-germany-i...

https://www.thedrive.com/sheetmetal/15825/these-are-the-coun...

http://fortune.com/2017/10/12/paris-combustion-engine-ban/

If car companies want to stay in the car business they will have to produce battery electric cars or hydrogen fuel cell cars or both.


They’re probably making a kind of patent war firewall with this move. I’m not sure how it’d work, legally, but the clause about not paying royalties unless being engaged in lawsuits related to the tech is clearly strategic.


“Toyota plans to make thousands of patents relating to its hybrid technology royalty-free, in a move analysts say will help keep the technology relevant by encouraging competitors to enter the market ”

https://www.ft.com/content/3557f3da-55d7-11e9-91f9-b6515a54c...


Barrier to entry has just been lowered drastically by open sourcing those patents. It's not about charity at all, it's about creating a market. By opening these patents to possible competitors, they are helping other companies enter the EV space. Toyota wants to dominate the EV vertical, but there needs to be more people buying them long-term for them to make a crap-ton of money. This is their way of helping create the market for the future.


I still don't quite see why I as a company would want to help a competitor enter the market on the same playing field as me.

Is it so effective in increasing customer acceptance?


It's not exactly customer acceptance they're after. Cars are a market where there will always be some kind of competitor. Toyota knows it's one of the few great automakers in the world; they're not sweating that someone might out-Toyota them. But there needs to be advances in technology and manufacturing to lower the cost of EVs, so more people will buy them. Toyota could try to take the brunt of that gamble (assuming they even succeed), or it can open up its tech and let rivals try to build better tech, which they can then reverse-clone, like IBM making a clone of an IBM PC clone. Once the tech is more widespread and cheaper (and other people have paid for this to happen), they can swoop in and reap the benefits of an even larger share of people to whom they can sell cars.


It seems a little strange as well, but maybe it's something like this:

I know I will dominate in an environment where EVs are popular, the only problem is, there isn't enough infrastructure for them to be popular yet. Therefore, I will facilitate an environment where they are popular?


It being a way to make standards is definitely possible. And the cost to using the standards is you can’t patent troll one another like apple/Samsung. It sounds like a kind of patent troll firewall. It’d probably be difficult for a troll to sue them for anything related to these patents.


I think the quote from the article is pretty telling:

"If the number of electrified vehicles accelerates significantly in the next ten years, they will become standard, and we hope to play a role in supporting that process."


The real value in the 24,000 patents is not being sued by another company that patented it first.


> I can’t tell what their motivation is...

They're confident of two things: the move will encourage further players in the space, and they'll compete well against those players.


It may force industry standards to organically align with Toyota design direction, allowing for easier compatibility.

Also, if the industry follows your lead, you always stay in front.


Other news sources point out "until 2030"


Most are worthless. Toyota, just like Honda, bet on a short term hybrid horse, great during ~2008 oil price hike and cash for clunkers program, but ultimately a dead end.


At the time there were no battery production capacity for mass market EVs, so they bet on the only horse running the EV race which were small batteries and a gas tank.


This is a very clever move by Toyota. They are the leader in hybrid and that market segment is very small. Growing that segment by 100% or even 1000% may be possible and most of the growth will accrue with them. Certainly most of the profits as they are already positioned to deliver the most performant, economic and even more importantly trusted solution.


This is great news to the extent that it includes tech for fully electric vehicles (as opposed to "electrified", a red flag word that includes hybrids as if they were on the same footing as electric cars).

The "green" halo bestowed on hybrids is really no longer justified. They still burn gasoline, pollute almost as much as any other car, and have ultra complex maintenance like any ICE car.

I hope this isn't just a feint to encourage competitors to get mired in hybrid tech... although in that case the silver lining would be Toyota trying to take a leading position in fully electric.

Regardless of any possible cynical interpretations, it does seem like a hugely positive move overall. Since renewables are now price competitive with dirty options like coal, more and more of the grid will flip over to clean energy, so all-electric vehicles are going to have a huge impact on cutting CO2 emissions.


> The "green" halo bestowed on hybrids is really no longer justified. They still burn gasoline, pollute almost as much as any other car

The Toyota Prius does better than many other cars in environmental impact:

https://www.greencarreports.com/news/1117018_2018-toyota-pri...

> and have ultra complex maintenance like any ICE car.

The Toyota Prius is reckoned to be one of the cheapest cars to own and maintain:

https://www.consumerreports.org/cro/news/2013/02/most-and-le...

https://www.yourmechanic.com/article/the-most-and-least-expe...

The maintenance and reliability just doesn't seem to be a problem with the Prius.


> Hybrids ... pollute almost as much as any other car.

That’s just factually and obviously untrue. You can tell by looking at the MPG figure. Any vehicle that burns more gallons of gas per mile proportionally farts out more emissions per mile.

My 2013 Toyota Camry hybrid is 6 years old now, gets 38-41mpg, and I have never charged it. It is a rock solid vehicle and I have never had to perform maintenance on any of the hybrid parts. They just work. Toyota has a reputation for producing low maintenance vehicles using last year’s technology. If the battery eventually wears out later on and I don’t fix it, it’ll get less MPG and be more like every other carbon farting car on the road. Believe it or not, the car produces more electricity from regenerative braking than it uses up so the battery is usually mostly full all the time. The bottle-neck is in the electric motor’s low top-speed. It switches from electric to gas if you ever go over 40mph and back to electric if you go under 40mph.

There isn’t a big need to be so cynical with hybrids. They’re quite amazing and incredible to watch and use.


A Toyota Yaris can get ~ 45mpg.


But then you have to drive a Yaris


But dude... you have to drive a Camry now. Which is... well, you should test drive a Tesla to get what I mean.

I had a Camry. They are great cars. But you should test drive a Tesla.


Hahaha yeah I’d still rather be driving a Tesla


I think this is a desperation move on Toyota's part. Hybrids were a hot technology a decade ago, but they are being replaced by battery electrics. And I am guessing that Toyota's management is finally realizing that its huge bet on hydrogen fuel cells is never going to pay off.

It's interesting to contrast this with the other top car manufacturer, VW. It has decided to push hard on EV's.


ELI5:

You can use these patents, ostensibly, as it pertains to a design of [thing] that youre making.

However, could you use the actual componentry coming out of a tesla facility as patented and incorporate it into your [thing]:

I.e. design a car completely designed to comply with the patenet and design of the tesla sub chassis such that you can modify a 38 Ford to be placed on top of a tesla drive train system?

The reason i ask this is that i had a former boss at this architect firm where he did just this, but instead purchased a corvette Z series car which was “totalled” (fiberglass body was destroyed in a roll) three days after purchase and put a 38 ford body on top of the chassis that needed minimal repairs.

So now he had a ford on top of the latest corvette model avail at the time.

Id like to do this with teslas...


There are quite a few people taking old cars such as Porsches and electrifying them. I think they may be using some Tesla parts.

I would like to take an old car and install a small battery, a small engine, and a big electric motor. Because if you are all engine you need a big thirsty engine, and if you are all battery you need a big heavy battery, but if you just need power for say 10 seconds of acceleration, you can have a small battery, and if you just need a big enough engine for the average power usage, you can have a very small engine, and if you have a powerful electric motor, you can still accelerate quickly.


Just bear in mind that large batteries have a couple more advantages

1. More battery banks so each one has to deliver less power during acceleration 2. More space to distribute any waste heat 3. Less waste heat for a given current since we have less current per battery system

So, a small battery bank might not deliver the current you need for your burst of acceleration.


Small is a relative term; the comparison is to a battery that provides a couple hundred miles of range, as people are trying for these days.


Is this like how Tesla “open-sourced their patents” too?




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