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"Dyson is more focused than ever on energy storage solutions, which includes developing new intellectual property with the Sakti3 team. We currently own 94 Sakti3 patents and patents pending protecting those developments. The three patents in question pre-date Dyson's purchase of Satki3 and are therefore owned by the University of Michigan. The related IP has been superseded with better technology and is no longer important to our aims, so we are not renewing the license. We remain committed to investing £1bn in battery technology over the coming years, and Sakti3 is an essential and exciting part of that program."
Dyson had big plans for its solid-state battery. The vacuum cleaner (and, yes, other technology) company acquired battery startup Sakti3 – a spinoff from the University of Michigan – for $90 million, with hopes of developing a commercial alternative to liquid-electrolyte lithium-ion batteries. Dyson had plans for a battery factory, and even an electric car. Now, those plans are called into question, as Dyson has relinquished its license for the patents owned by UM, according to Quartz.
Why would Dyson abandon such promising patents, which had the potential to double the capacity of traditional Li-ion batteries? Cost would be a key reason. The patent license reportedly cost $200,000 a year, and Fabio Albano, who worked on the patents, tells Quartz that the fee rises every year. As Albano says, "If you don't have revenues from a patent, you kill it."
Two possible reasons the patents aren't generating revenue, one good, one bad:
First, perhaps Sakti3 has created new intellectual property going above and beyond the original UM patents, making them obsolete. If you've got your own, better ideas, no need to hold on to those old, expensive patents.
"I don't know the exact reason why Dyson terminated the license, but I assume the original IP was no longer important given the additional IP created by Dyson," says Kenneth Nisbet, Associate VP, Technology Transfer at University of Michigan.
Or, maybe the technology just didn't pan out the way Dyson had hoped. Making better batteries is hard – and expensive – and it could be that the solid-state tech wasn't all that promising after all. Quartz has cited scaling issues, significant cost barriers, and skeptical peers as reasons and signs that Dyson simply hasn't been able to follow through on its breakthrough battery in a way that makes financial sense. In which case, they dropped the patents.
But let's hope we still see that electric car from Dyson someday.