BYD has been on a patenting spree over the past 20 years, filing for 16 times as many patents as Tesla, largely looking to protect its battery technology.
Data recently published by Patent Result in Tokyo reveals that BYD has applied for over 13,000 patents between 2003 and 2022 while Tesla applied for a mere 863 patents over the same time period. More than half of all BYD’s patents are related to batteries This is telling and explains why unlike most other car manufacturers building EVs, BYD is able to use battery packs it develops in-house, rather than having to turn to third-party suppliers.
BYD’s heavy reliance on patents is important as its proprietary battery technologies can be exposed by disassembling its battery packs. By comparison, Tesla looks to reduce the risk of imitation by other companies by only using new production technology within its factories. One downside of patents is that details must be made public, which means they could be imitated, Nikkei Asia notes.
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According to patent lawyer Hideto Kono, a car manufacturer of Tesla’s size would typically apply for “at least 10 times as many” patents as it has over the past two decades. One explanation as to why Tesla has fewer patents is that it is heavily reliant on software and software development that uses plenty of publicly available information.
Nikkei Asia notes that many of Tesla’s patents relate to charging infrastructure and communications between EVs and drivers.
BYD has established itself as a leader in the development and manufacture of lithium-ion batteries with iron phosphate cathodes. These batteries are cheaper than those from Korean rivals with ternary lithium batteries using nickel and cobalt.