Tesla, Patents, Elon Musk, & The Bigger Picture

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Elon Musk, who recently stated on Twitter that he tries to not be included in patents (named on patent filings) was included in Tesla’s latest ones. In an article published by Tesmanian, Elon Musk is included as an inventor of patents relating to autonomous and user-controlled vehicle summon to a specific target.

In 2019, Tesla’s development team developed its Smart Summon feature under the patent “Autonomous and user-controlled vehicle summon to a target.” The patent was just recently published on August 13, 2020, with a very familiar name on the list of inventors.

Whether or not he wanted the credit, it given to him, but this gives a glimpse of just how deeply involved Tesla’s CEO is with every detail of the aspects that go into making a Tesla a safe product that its customers love. And what’s even more beautiful about this is that Elon Musk is more focused on the final results, instead of the credit. He would rather his entire team take the credit as he dives into the creative zone, as I call it, and makes something else that will improve his products (at Tesla, SpaceX, Boring Company, Neuralink).

It seems that Elon Musk would rather be behind the scenes, working to turn his dreams into reality, than taking credit for those dreams becoming reality. This is what sets Tesla apart from not just its competitors, but most other companies. We don’t see Amazon or NVIDIA giving away their patents or ideas, yet both Tesla and Elon Musk have made it known many times that Tesla’s patents are freely given to those who would like to use them fairly.

The Bigger Picture

In 2014, Elon Musk announced on Tesla’s blog that their patents are open to everyone. He wrote about the wall of Tesla patents in the lobby of the Palo Alto headquarters. “They have been removed, in the spirit of the open-source movement, for the advancement of electric vehicle technology.” He wrote about Tesla’s goals — to accelerate the advent of sustainable transport — and his hope to lead the way by clearing a path for others to create EVs without tripping them up with “intellectual property landmines.”

In the beginnings of Tesla, this wasn’t always so. “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.”

However, there is a small catch — you have to use Tesla’s patents in good faith. And, in my humble opinion, that isn’t a hefty price to pay for the value Tesla is freely giving away. Here’s Tesla’s stance on good faith:

A party is “acting in good faith” for so long as such party and its related or affiliated companies have not:

    1. asserted, helped others assert or had a financial stake in any assertion of (i) any patent or other intellectual property right against Tesla or (ii) any patent right against a third party for its use of technologies relating to electric vehicles or related equipment;
    2. challenged, helped others challenge, or had a financial stake in any challenge to any Tesla patent; or
    3. marketed or sold any knock-off product (e.g., a product created by imitating or copying the design or appearance of a Tesla product or which suggests an association with or endorsement by Tesla) or provided any material assistance to another party doing so.

This isn’t for competitors who want to steal from Tesla, or for those who have advocated against Tesla and tried to manipulate the stock in order to harm the company. These patents are for companies that truly want to make a difference and see Tesla as an ally, not a pure competitor or the enemy that needs to be taken down.

As for rivals such as BMW, General Motors, and others that are making electric cars, back in 2014, when this interview with Elon Musk took place, they had much shorter range, and Elon Musk welcomed them to use Tesla’s patents to help go further. “We have had a number of inquiries from other car companies and we’ve told them to go ahead and use them,” he said.

Although it’s not known who is using Tesla’s patents, the fact that the leader of the electric vehicle industry (with 28% of the global market right now) is trying to help its competitors get to its level is truly a beautiful thing. This proves that Tesla is about collaboration, because the stakes are higher than profits, cars, status, and credit.


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Johnna Crider

Johnna owns less than one share of $TSLA currently and supports Tesla's mission. She also gardens, collects interesting minerals and can be found on TikTok

Johnna Crider has 1996 posts and counting. See all posts by Johnna Crider