Ford Applies for Record Number of Patents as CEO Eyes Innovation

  • Company's 5,872 filings so far this year are up 36% from 2014
  • CEO Fields presses automaker to adopt Silicon Valley mindset

Ford Motor Co., the 112-year-old automaker, has sought a record number of patents in 2015 as Chief Executive Officer Mark Fields pushes the company toward Silicon Valley-style innovation.

The company applied for 5,872 patents so far this year, a 36 percent increase from all of 2014, in areas including autonomous cars, wearable devices and ride-sharing, according to a statement Tuesday. Ford said its filings related to electrified vehicles have almost tripled in the past five years, including more than 400 last year.

“We’re getting innovation not just from the major centers we’ve had historically in Michigan and in Europe, but really the entire enterprise is becoming more inventive,” Bill Coughlin, chief executive officer of Ford Global Technologies, said in a telephone interview. “Once someone starts thinking like an inventor, they can’t turn that off,” he said, adding that “it changes your mindset more toward one that would be very familiar in Silicon Valley.”

Fields has repeatedly said he wants Ford to be part of Silicon Valley as it pushes further into new businesses such as driverless cars and electrified vehicles. The Dearborn, Michigan-based company said earlier this month that it will invest $4.5 billion in electrified autos by 2020, after stepping up its autonomous-vehicle efforts in a June announcement that expanded its Smart Mobility plan and also included car-sharing test programs.

Ford also said Tuesday that it has 275 U.S. patents on its EcoBoost engines, more than any other automaker for gasoline turbocharged direct-injection technology, and an additional 200 pending.

As of November, about 1,000 of Ford’s patent applications from this year have been approved while the rest are in the process, said Karl Henkel, a company spokesman.

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