The Surprising Benefits of Giving Away Your Intellectual Property

From McLean to Musk, a short history of giving away patents

Written by Graham F. Scott

In January, Toyota announced it would open up its patent portfolio in order to drive wider adoption of hydrogen technology. Under the automaker’s scheme, manufacturers will be allowed to develop products using its patented technology through 2020 without a royalty fee.

“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,” said Bob Carter, senior vice-president of Toyota’s automotive operations. “By eliminating traditional corporate boundaries, we can speed the development of new technologies.”

Giving away intellectual property isn’t as rare as it might seem; Toyota provided free access to some of its hybrid car patents when it debuted the Prius nearly 20 years ago, and many companies have built their businesses on such arrangements. Here are some of the ways giving ideas away has paid off.

This article is from the March 2015 issue of Canadian Business. Subscribe now!


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