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Elon Musk: No More Patents, Our Technology Is Free To Use/Copy

Elon Musk has made yet another highly interesting and somewhat unpredictable move/announcement (in a long line of such moves) — Tesla Motors will not initiate patent lawsuits against anyone who, in good faith, uses the company’s technology.

According to Musk, the move is intended to help spur further/faster development in/of the EV industry — and perhaps begin to put a real dent in the market-share of gas-powered vehicles as compared to electric ones.

Image Credit: Tesla Motors

The announcement comes via a recent blog posting by Elon Musk on the Tesla website, and was accompanied by the symbolic act of removing the wall of Tesla patents previously displayed in the lobby of the company’s headquarters in Palo Alto.

Here’s an excerpt from Musk’s post explaining the decision:

Tesla Motors was created to accelerate the advent of sustainable transport. If we clear a path to the creation of compelling electric vehicles, but then lay intellectual property landmines behind us to inhibit others, we are acting in a manner contrary to that goal.

When I started out with my first company, Zip2, I thought patents were a good thing and worked hard to obtain them. And maybe they were good long ago, but too often these days they serve merely to stifle progress, entrench the positions of giant corporations and enrich those in the legal profession, rather than the actual inventors.

At Tesla, however, we felt compelled to create patents out of concern that the big car companies would copy our technology and then use their massive manufacturing, sales and marketing power to overwhelm Tesla. We couldn’t have been more wrong. The unfortunate reality is the opposite: electric car programs (or programs for any vehicle that doesn’t burn hydrocarbons) at the major manufacturers are small to non-existent, constituting an average of far less than 1% of their total vehicle sales.

Musk goes on to note that annual new vehicle production is approaching 100 million per year — making for an enormous market, filled mostly with gas-powered cars. Such gas-powered cars are Tesla’s “true competition,” Musk states — allowing other companies to use Tesla’s technology to increase their production of EVs shouldn’t really be an issue.

“We believe that Tesla, other companies making electric cars, and the world would all benefit from a common, rapidly-evolving technology platform. Technology leadership is not defined by patents, which history has repeatedly shown to be small protection indeed against a determined competitor, but rather by the ability of a company to attract and motivate the world’s most talented engineers. We believe that applying the open source philosophy to our patents will strengthen rather than diminish Tesla’s position in this regard.”

Interesting. Seems like the right choice to me (and certainly makes for good PR). 🙂

Any thoughts from our readers?

 
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Written By

James Ayre's background is predominantly in geopolitics and history, but he has an obsessive interest in pretty much everything. After an early life spent in the Imperial Free City of Dortmund, James followed the river Ruhr to Cofbuokheim, where he attended the University of Astnide. And where he also briefly considered entering the coal mining business. He currently writes for a living, on a broad variety of subjects, ranging from science, to politics, to military history, to renewable energy.

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