Tesla Motors: “All Our Patents are Belong to You”

June 18, 2014

Tesla Motors launched a big, unexpected initiative the other day, towards making electric autos a standard platform. Above, Elon Musk interviewed. Refreshing and unusual perspective from an Auto magnate, but if you’re looking for magic rainbow solutions, curb your enthusiasm.

Tesla Motors Blog:

Yesterday, there was a wall of Tesla patents in the lobby of our Palo Alto headquarters. That is no longer the case. They have been removed, in the spirit of the open source movement, for the advancement of electric vehicle technology.

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. Tesla will not initiate patent lawsuits against anyone who, in good faith, wants to use our technology.

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. After Zip2, when I realized that receiving a patent really just meant that you bought a lottery ticket to a lawsuit, I avoided them whenever possible.

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.

At best, the large automakers are producing electric cars with limited range in limited volume. Some produce no zero emission cars at all.

Given that annual new vehicle production is approaching 100 million per year and the global fleet is approximately 2 billion cars, it is impossible for Tesla to build electric cars fast enough to address the carbon crisis. By the same token, it means the market is enormous. Our true competition is not the small trickle of non-Tesla electric cars being produced, but rather the enormous flood of gasoline cars pouring out of the world’s factories every day.

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.



7 Responses to “Tesla Motors: “All Our Patents are Belong to You””

  1. […] Tesla Motors launched a big, unexpected initiative the other day, towards making electric autos a standard platform. Above, Elon Musk interviewed. Refreshing and unusual perspective from an Auto ma…  […]

  2. skeptictmac57 Says:

    Makes me want to go out and buy a Tesla,despite the fact that it is really beyond my comfort price right now.
    Musk may turn out to be the modern day equivalent of Edison.

    • Or, Nikola Tesla!

    • rayduray Says:

      Re: “Musk may turn out to be the modern day equivalent of Edison.”

      You mean someone who will fight innovation tooth and nail? Do you recall the entirely negative and destructive campaign waged by Tom Edison against Nicola Tesla and George Westinghouse on the superior three-phase power transmission solution?

      Do you recall how Tom Edison took all the credit for the inventive genius of the hundreds of unsung heroes he employed as engineers?

      Today’s rich entrepreneur who most resembles Thomas Edison is quite possibly Bill Gates. Another exceptionally savvy businessman who was clever in the arts of licensing technology, marketing and self-promotion.

      Elon Musk seems to be something different. He seems genuinely interested in the technology and engineering he’s making a home for in his various enterprises. I’m an admirer of Elon Musk, while Edison and Gates? Not so much. Being clever at business and self-aggrandizement is not as admirable in my book as is true innovation and technological advance.

    • Earthling Says:

      There is and always will be someone to wear that crown.
      The phonograph, the motion picture camera, a long-lasting, practical electric light bulb and many other patents, most of them over 100 years old.
      Imagine how people will remember the few museum piece Tesla cars 100 years from now. Ö¿Ö

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