Tesla's Elon Musk: Take Our Patents, They're Yours

Jun 12 2014, 5:28pm CDT | by

Last week, Elon Musk caused a buzz at Tesla Motors' annual shareholders meeting by hinting that the company was thinking of providing its electric cars patents to open source users.

On Thursday, he made good on his promise. On the company’s blog, Musk declared, “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.”

It’s certainly not the way other car companies have done things. Through the years, Toyota Motor has made arrangements to license its hybrid-electric vehicle technology to General Motors and Ford Motor.

And of course, GM, Nissan, BMW and other carmakers have put thousands of engineers to work coming up with alternative fuel vehicle technologies, sometimes in joint ventures, sometimes alone.

So, the idea that Tesla’s patents are available to good faith users is a pretty big deal. Musk explained it this way.

“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.”

Musk admits he’s had a change of heart from his days at his first company, Zip2. Back then, he worked hard for his patents. But lately, Musk says he’s come to realize “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.”

He didn’t make Tesla’s patents available originally for fear that big car companies would copy them. Come to find out, Musk said, electric car programs are small to non-existent, with sales comprising less than 1 percent of total vehicle sales.

Of course, Musk may have an ulterior motive in addition to his altruistic one. He’s about to pick the finalists in a four (and perhaps five) state race for the $5 billion gigafactory, which is meant to produce battery kits for as many as 500,000 vehicles by 2020.

No matter how ambitious Musk is for Tesla’s future, which is set to include a sport utility and mass market car in addition to the Model S sedan, he may need some other customers for those battery packs.

It will be interesting to see where Tesla’s technology might show up in the next few years, or even decades. Would any car company want to declare that they are using the patents? Will it be easy to figure out which one has Tesla technology under the hood?

By offering the open source technology, Musk brings to mind the way Toyota has operated its plants. Through the years, Toyota was willing to let scores of visitors inside its factories and even teach the Toyota Production System to those interested in learning its philosophy.

The trick was never in the information, however: it was how an organization embraced TPS and Toyota’s other ways of doing things. And, while Toyota has wrestled with quality problems, it remains admired for efficient manufacturing.

As with Toyota, Musk may be handing out guidebooks, but it’s still easily possible for others to get lost.

Tesla Model S



  />/>
 
 

Don't miss ...

 

<a href="/latest_stories/all/all/30" rel="author">Forbes</a>
Forbes is among the most trusted resources for the world's business and investment leaders, providing them the uncompromising commentary, concise analysis, relevant tools and real-time reporting they need to succeed at work, profit from investing and have fun with the rewards of winning.

 

blog comments powered by Disqus

Latest stories

IPad Air Giveaway 2014 is Online
IPad Air Giveaway 2014 is Online
Our sister site I4U News is giving away a brand new iPad Air or if you can wait an iPad Air 2. This is an $499 value.
 
 
Your Parent Or Kid Moved In: Are You Covered?
A record 57 million Americans now live in multigenerational family households — double the number in 1980, according to a new Pew Research Center study. And I bet many of them have the wrong homeowner’s or renters...
 
 
Pandora Looks to Challenge Terrestrial Radio's Dominance in Cars
Pandora Media is one of the largest Internet radio providers in the U.S. with more than 75 million active users. While the company’s active user count has increased at a robust pace historically, it is likely to slow...
 
 
Are General Manager Salaries About To Skyrocket? Will There Be A Front Office Salary Cap?
Are General Manager Salaries About To Skyrocket? Will There Be A Front Office Salary Cap?
It’s January 2026. New York Yankees owner Hal Steinbrenner gets out of his driverless car and triumphantly marches before the gathered press to introduce his prized new free agent. It’s a record-breaking contract—over...
 
 
 

Latest from the Network

Pujara, Kohli slip in ICC rankings for Test batsmen
Dubai, Aug 1 (IANS) South Africa's AB de Villiers continues to head the Reliance ICC Rankings for Test batsmen while compatriot Hashim Amla returned to the top three. Poor performances from India's Chetseshwar Pujara...
Read more on Sport Balla
 
Two women injured in Pakistan acid attack
Islamabad, Aug 1 (IANS) A woman and her daughter were injured Friday in an acid attack in Pakistan's Punjab province. According to police sources, the two women, Momina and her daughter Amina, were inside their...
Read more on Politics Balla
 
Family of six murdered in China
Beijing, Aug 1 (IANS) At least six members of a family were murdered Friday in China's Hunan province, a police official said. According to the official, Cheng and his family were killed in their home in Jiutang...
Read more on Politics Balla
 
Seema, Krishna qualify for women's discus throw final
Glasgow, Aug 1 (IANS) Both Seema Punia and Krishna Poonia advanced to the women's discus throw final but while Seema's throw put her in second position, Krishna was placed a lowly 11th in the qualification round of the...
Read more on Sport Balla
 
James Bond script approved
'Bond 24's revamped script has been approved by movie bosses. Writers Neal Purvis and Robert Wade were rehired last month to ''rescue'' John Logan's original screenplay and insiders have now admitted they had a bigger...
Read more on Movie Balla
 
Samsung to launch two new smartphones
Seoul, Aug 1 (IANS) Samsung Electronics will launch two new high-end smartphones in next six months. Kim Hyun-joon, senior vice president at Samsung, told investors that one model will feature a large screen, while...
Read more on Business Balla
 
Weight issues - when Hollywood movies went wrong
Los Angeles, Aug 1 (IANS) Depictions of weight gain or loss we see in Hollywood movies are rarely true to life, and yet we believe them. Here's a list things movies get wrong when it comes to weight, reports...
Read more on Celebrity Balla
 
Orlando Bloom vaulted sofa to reach Bieber
Orlando Bloom jumped over a sofa to punch Justin Bieber. The 'Lord of the Rings' actor was involved in an altercation with the 'Baby' hitmaker at upmarket Ibiza eatery Cipriani earlier this week, and an onlooker claims...
Read more on Celebrity Balla
 
Amal Alamuddin celebrates bridal shower
Amal Alamuddin enjoyed a bridal shower on Tuesday (07.29.14). The British human rights lawyer celebrated her impending marriage to George Clooney with an ''intimate'' dinner hosted by Ellen Barkin at the actress' New...
Read more on Celebrity Balla
 
Sindhu joins Thulasi, Kashyap, Srikanth in quarters (Roundup)
Glasgow, Aug 1 (IANS) Indian badminton players had a great day at the Commonwealth Games when Pusarla Venkata Sindhu joined Parupalli Kashyap, Kidambi Srikanth, Rajah Menuri Venkata Gurusaidatt and Puthenpurayil...
Read more on Sport Balla