What does the open patents deal mean for Tesla ... and BMW?

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Gift to the world or trade bait? Tesla Motors announced this week it would open its patents for other automakers to use. That has analysts guessing whether the California-based electric-vehicle maker is looking to either swap trade secrets with other automakers or to expand the proverbial pie that represents the plug-in vehicle market. For its part, Tesla says the answer is B.

BMW, which is establishing its i sub-brand of plug-in vehicles, would be a natural collaborator with Tesla, Forbes says. In fact, executives from the two companies met in Europe this week. Details were not released, but a BMW spokesman said, "Both companies are strongly committed to the success of electromobility and discussed how to further strengthen the development of electromobility on an international level."

While Tesla brings battery technology to the table, BMW offers its carbon-fiber advancements that lighten vehicle-body weight. Those advancements are key to range-extending efforts and could do wonders for Tesla on its journey to help spur technology for the sake of getting more of the general public to accept plug-in technology as a viable first-car option. Then again, Forbes says Tesla, whose investors include Mercedes-Benz parent Daimler and Toyota, may be keeping its best technologies to itself by not patenting certain advancements at all.

What's in Tesla's patent pool? uAutoInsurance analyzed Tesla's 249 patents and found that 104 of them related to battery technology, while 28 pertained to recharging activity, which wasn't surprising (about a quarter of those 249 patents couldn't readily be categorized). Tesla also has nine patents related to sunroof technology. The company is based in California, after all.

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