This list of top innovators put together by Forbes has been further refined by intellectual property analytics firm Innography to take a more objective, data-based approach in determining the world’s most innovative firms. In a report titled How Innovative Are They?, Innography takes the top five companies on Forbes’ list (Tesla, Salesforce.com, Regeneron, Incyte and Alexion, respectively) and measured them against six metrics: number of inventions; number of inventors; inventor locations; patents per inventor; and a metric Innography refers to as PatentStrength, a measure of both patent quality and filing activity.
Like so many other critics of the patent system, Musk seems to despise all patents except for his own. Of course, Musk never said he avoids patents altogether, just whenever possible. But if you look at his enterprises, including Tesla, it is hard to detect evidence of patent avoidance of any kind at any time. So when Musk speaks on patents it is nothing more than encouraging people to do as he says not as he and his companies do for themselves. I guess you might say that Elon Musk doesn’t like other people’s patents, but his are perfectly OK.
Elon Musk’s updated master plan reeks of overconfidence. He envisions entire fleets of autonomous Tesla vehicles while missing recent sales targets by thousands of units. He wants to pump massive amounts of money into R&D for autonomous technologies and new types of vehicles, but the company is having trouble with bleeding warranty costs which are double the amount seen at Ford or GM. The lack of timeline details in the master plan was not well received by financial analysts and Tesla stock was down by 3 percent in the days after the announcement.
The patent landscape for self-driving vehicles is also quickly expanding. As of 2013, patent applications related to this technology hit 2,500 per year. That rate is expected to increase. A lot of attention has been paid to the entry of major tech firms, including Google, thanks in part to eyebrow-raising technologies like their patent for an adhesive material for a car’s hood that is designed to “catch” a pedestrian who is inadvertently struck by an autonomous vehicle. But tech companies should expect plenty of competition. Despite reports that Silicon Valley tech giants are entering the autonomous vehicle race and risk upsetting the traditional market, a study from Thomson Reuters Intellectual Property and Science indicates that long-time automakers have taken the lead in autonomous vehicle development in terms of patents and patent applications.
The recent Model 3 announcement by Tesla took the industry by storm and saw Tesla collecting a whopping $276 million in preorders in a matter of days. In focus in particular was the autopilot features on the new Tesla car – which meant that Autonomous Cars (a.k.a. driverless cars or self-driven cars) are finally breaching the line between concept and mainstream… Though efforts have escalated significantly in the last five years, autonomous cars are not a new concept. Initial research can be traced back all the way to the 1920s.
In many ways, 2015 has been the year of the automobile, especially in the tech world. Throughout the course of the year we’ve noted a great deal of business and technological developments that have been reshaping the entire vehicle manufacturing sector. Gone are the days that the market is completely dominated by names such as General Motors Company, Ford Motor Company or Toyota Motor Corp. As 2015 draws to a close, these traditional automaker behemoths are seeing encroachment on their position from some unusual names, especially those residing in Silicon Valley.
Our latest Tech Round-Up here on IPWatchdog takes a brief glance at many of the stories which have caught our attention in recent days. As he often does, Elon Musk takes center-stage in a couple of news items regarding challenges he’ll be facing in the realms of space travel as well as electric vehicles. In Europe, the first successful installation of light-based wireless Internet could be the first step in a new age of Internet connectivity. Data breaches and genetically modified foods round out our discussion of recent events in the worlds of high-tech and science.
Musk maintains that he has avoided patents since leaving a business venture in 1999 but we’ve been pointing out how companies in which he holds a large interest have been acquiring IP and filing new patent applications themselves. In fact, as the IP portfolio analysis tools from Innography show us, Tesla has earned 27 patents thus far in 2015, making it pretty clear that Elon Musk is doing an awful job of avoiding patents, which really has to make you wonder what is behind his anti-patent rhetoric.
When looking specifically at patents that specifically mention “electric vehicles,” it looks as though there are reasons to feel good about America’s place in the world. Both Ford and General Motors Company are atop the leaderboard in this sector, placing first and second overall respectively. One Ford technology developed to allow electric vehicle owners to make sure that electricity drawn from a vehicle comes from renewable sources is outlined within U.S. Patent No. 9024571, entitled ‘Charging of Electric Vehicles Based on Historical Clean Energy Profiles.’ General Motors is hoping to change the perception that Electric Vehicles are capable of only short range use, as evident by recently issued U.S. Patent No. 9002552, titled “Compact Electric Range Extender for an Electric Vehicle.”
SpaceX and NASA suffered a serious setback when the unmanned SpaceX Falcon 9 craft exploded, rendering its mission to deliver supplies and hardware to ISS a complete failure. Excessive pressure building up in a liquid oxygen tank of one of the craft’s upper stages caused the space launcher to break up shortly after leaving Cape Canaveral, FL. Air Force safety officers gave the command for the SpaceX Falcon 9 to self-destruct, largely so that fuel reserves could be burnt off and not dropped into the ocean.
Ford and Tesla have offered their patents for licensing in the hope of increasing electric vehicle (EV) adoption and improving the supporting infrastructure. In contrast, Toyota is banking on fuel cell vehicle (FCV) technology. The broader automotive innovation game is being won by “connected cars” at the moment because consumers are unwilling to pay more for physical car features, but they are influenced by software related innovations. Technology companies are now entering the car sector with their own EVs. This is leading to competition to access the talent needed to drive innovation and a willingness to open up technology investments. By opening their patent portfolio, Ford could be sharing their existing inventions in the hope that their technology is adopted more quickly and of acquiring the talent needed to be at the forefront of innovation.
To Musk’s credit, he has not denied that his companies received substantial government assistance, and it seems as though he’s never refuted the amount of money he has received, which one reporter for the Los Angeles Times pegged as high as $4.9 billion when accounting for public assistance to any of Musk’s companies. In Musk’s mind, the benefits that his corporations pose in the form of new age technologies and well-paying jobs more than make up for the public investment into his business activities. He’s also keen to point out that his companies would still be in business without government assistance, a point that is nearly impossible to prove. Further, he sought to deflect inquiry by pointing out that the incentives his company has received “are a tiny, tiny, pittance compared to what the oil and gas industry receives every year.”
Tesla’s Powerwall batteries will come in two varieties: one a 10 kilowatt-hour (kWh) version for a weekly cycle unit designed for backup applications, the other a 7 kWh unit for everyday use. The batteries can be installed in groups of up to nine, providing a maximum of 90 kWh hours of backup energy (or 63 kWh of energy available daily). The dimensions of the Powerwall battery are about four feet tall and nearly three feet wide; its slender 7.1 inches of depth and sleek design gives it a form which fits neatly on most walls, inside or out. It can be installed in an afternoon and does not need major home rewiring. The 10 kWh model costs $3,500 ($3,000 for the 7 kWh version) although a homeowner must pay for installation and an inverter if the property includes solar panels.
Toyota is attempting to boost collaborative innovation in the field of vehicle fuel cell technologies by opening up thousands of patents for royalty-free use by other automakers. On January 6th, the corporation announced that it would enable cost-free licensing for 5,680 of its patents. Toyota is hoping that the decision will encourage wider development of hydrogen technologies for vehicles over the next few years.
Musk has been creating some waves in his role as CEO of Tesla Motors. In a self-authored blog post published on the official Tesla Motors blog, Musk announced that the company was trying to make the company ‘open source’ by allowing other people to infringe on their patent portfolio with the supposed intent of encouraging the development of electric vehicle technologies . . . Of course, it is hard to ignore the reality that several weeks before this allegedly altruistic proclamation by Musk, Toyota announced that it would be phasing out its deal with Tesla Motors. Not surprisingly, a little more than a week after the Musk announcement Toyota unveiled its hydrogen car. Time is reporting that the car will be introduced first in Japan in 2015 and eventually in the U.S. market during the summer of 2015, likely at a price tag of $70,000.