Volvo invented the three-point seat belt in 1959 and opened up the patent. Thus, it had more value as a free life-saving tool than something to profit from it.
Volvo proudly proclaims that: “few people have saved as many lives as Nils Bohlin.” And they are right. Nils Bohlin is the little-known Volvo engineer who invented the V-type three-point safety belt in 1959 and saw his innovation through to universal adoption across the motor industry. His new cross-strap design made seat belts much easier to use, and much safer too. It is hard now to imagine cars without them.
Volvo patented the designs; standard industrial practice, to protect their investment from copy-cats. Good patents offer you a defensible advantage over rivals twenty years of monopoly rights in the U.S., for example. Having claimed this prize, Volvo was in a position to charge significant license fees to rivals, or indeed, to promote their cars as the safest on the road, by retaining exclusivity.
Remarkably, however, Volvo did neither but made Bohlin's patent immediately available to all. Having sponsored the R&D, they gifted their designs to competitors, to encourage mass adoption and to save lives.