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Over the last ten years or so, Toyota has amassed a wide-ranging assortment of more than 2,000 patents related to its proprietary Hybrid Synergy Drive. That's an impressive figure to be sure, and it's also a possible source of income as more and more automakers follow Toyota's lead by introducing hybrid vehicles of their own.

Because Toyota has the hybrid patent market on straight lockdown, it's likely that rival automakers will be forced to license certain parts of the Japanese automaker's design, which could potentially help boost Toyota's bottom line. Says Gouichiro Kuriyama, a manager in Toyota's product planning division:
Our system is the best technology for hybrids to get the best carbon dioxide emissions and best fuel economy. [Rivals] will not be able to compete.
Indeed, both Ford and Nissan have licensed Toyota hybrid technology in the past. Both of those automakers, though, already have or are planning new hybrid systems and fully electric vehicles of their own design. Furthermore, alternatives like the Voltec powertrain from General Motors take a different path to arrive at the same gasoline-saving goal as Toyota's Hybrid Synergy Drive and European automakers like Volkswagen, BMW and Mercedes-Benz are counting on diesel technologies to reduce fuel consumption.

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