Tesla Motors Inc. has released all legal rights to defend its patents against “anyone who, in good faith, wants to use our technology”.

CEO and founder of Tesla, Elon Musk, outlined his plans to open source his brand’s patents in a blog on Thursday.

“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,” he wrote.

“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.”

Then, in a conference call with US motoring journalists, Musk stated there were hundreds and thousands of Tesla patents, including its fast-charging technology that would now be available “open source”.

While Tesla’s intellectual property would be available open source, Musk told US journalists that his partners’ technology patents won’t be shared, and he was specifically referencing Tesla’s partnership with Panasonic and its co-development of battery packs.

“We’re not speaking on their behalf. Panasonic would retain all of their patents. This just applies to Tesla patents. Anything joint with Panasonic would need their sign-off,” he told US journalists.

“Tesla will continue to apply for patents as it develops new technology, then making them open source as well,” Musk said..

“In case other companies file patents as blocking maneuvers, we need to file patents before they do,” Musk said. “Other manufacturers will pursue [electric vehicles] if the road ahead is clear, than if it is paved with land mines.”

Musk went on to blog: “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 two 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,” he wrote.

So, in this one move, did Elon Musk just make the world a better place? Will giving car manufacturers access to Tesla’s intellectual property spearhead an electric car revolution? Let us know what you think. See you in the comments.


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  1. The best thing that could happen is open source for the car industry. Just look at what apple does with open source code for web etc. Much better experiences and greater development.

    1. Couldn’t agree more, Adam. Having driven two generations of Tesla Roadsters and the Mitsubishi iMiEV and the Nissan Leaf I can tell you that Tesla’s gear is light years ahead of the rest. This is a good thing for car fans.

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