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Elon Musk takes Tesla Motors into open-source territory

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June 12, 2014

Tesla's EV technology is now available to other manufacturers, with Elon Musk's announceme...

Tesla's EV technology is now available to other manufacturers, with Elon Musk's announcement today that the company would not be enforcing its patents

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In a gesture that’s as symbolic as it is game-changing for the EV industry, Elon Musk posted on Tesla’s blog this morning that "Tesla will not initiate patent lawsuits against anyone who, in good faith, wants to use our technology."

Contending that Tesla’s biggest competitors are not the few other EV manufacturers but actually every gasoline-powered vehicle manufacturer, Musk concludes that Tesla alone is powerless to combat any impending carbon crisis supported by gasoline vehicles.

Arguing that if Tesla’s primary goal is to "accelerate the advent of sustainable transport," yet it presents roadblocks in the form of patent disputes, then the company is acting in bad faith against its stated mission. He suggests that an open-source platform would benefit manufacturers and drivers alike by increasing the pace of EV development.

Musk says he realized the true nature of owning a patent when founding Zip2, and likened acquiring a patent to "[buying] a lottery ticket to a lawsuit." He concludes that technology leadership is not supported by owning and protecting patents, but by attracting and motivating talented engineers.

The now-gone wall of patents at Tesla's headquarters (Photo: Steve Jurvetson)
The now-gone wall of patents at Tesla's headquarters (Photo: Steve Jurvetson)

Tesla Motors had proudly preserved proof of their patents as a wall of plaques in its headquarters, but according to the announcement, the wall has been emptied.

The full text of the announcement is located on Tesla’s blog, linked below.

Source: Tesla Motors

About the Author
Heidi Hoopes Heidi measures her life with the motley things she's done in the name of scientific exploration. While formally educated in biology and chemistry, informally she learns from adventures and hobbies with her family. Her simple pleasures in life are finding turtles while jogging and obsessively winnowing through her genetic data.   All articles by Heidi Hoopes
25 Comments

Wooohooo!!! Finally someone in charge gets it!

Cyberxbx
12th June, 2014 @ 03:22 pm PDT

The Oatmeal did a comic on "Why Nikola Tesla was the greatest geek who ever lived" here http://theoatmeal.com/comics/tesla

Tesla was more about advancing technology to benefit everyone rather than technology for the sake of getting rich off of it. He would have approved of this move.

Daishi
12th June, 2014 @ 03:25 pm PDT

Ha! musk is a genius

realize that he's building a gigantic battery factory that will make tons of CAR batteries relatively cheaply in the US.

guess who he's going to sell all those batteries to~~~~

Joseph Kitchin
12th June, 2014 @ 07:08 pm PDT

Bravo Elon. You keep blowing us away and walking your talk in a way that makes other CEOs look shallow and plastic.

Rutherford Gnarlybone
12th June, 2014 @ 08:03 pm PDT

The coolest bit about the announcement is the blog article's title. The funniest bit is all the comments that don't understand it... Also check out Elon's Twitter response to the media's general lack of comprehension of the same.

Synchro
12th June, 2014 @ 11:52 pm PDT

This is fantastic. Now others should drop their patents and let world world advance faster. Hey! Apple, Sony, Microsoft, Google and Samsung just name a few. Drop all your patents!

HypoTron Man
13th June, 2014 @ 01:20 am PDT

Elon the Genius, what a guy, what a refreshing idea. I agree with most statements above. This is how humanity progresses. I have always wondered (knowing the obvious answer) why these people working on similar technology can't get together and consequently reduce the shared production costs.

Bob809
13th June, 2014 @ 09:27 am PDT

Looks like a libertarian got to talk with Elon. Patents were invented to encourage innovation. They rely on force to stop someone from employing an idea, even though that person may have thought of it first, or the person holding the patent may have no interest in ever using it for anything except keeping others from using it until they pay him (extortion) or the patent completely relies on other's ideas. Does that sound fair? Does it promote innovation?

Patents were supposed to be limited in time. Crony capitalists got the time limits extended. This does not promote technology/industry.

Patents are anti-invention, anti-life, and immoral. The sooner they are abolished, the better. In the long run, everyone will benefit.

Don Duncan
13th June, 2014 @ 10:03 am PDT

The Patent and Trademark act was one of the first laws enacted by Congress after British Americans launched the rebellion against their Good & Proper King.

The point was always to encourage improvement in society by encouraging individuals to innovate. Sadly, there are companies and low-life scum patent trolls who only view patents as tools to extort money with. However, by retaining his patents but opening them to broad use Elon has done all of the world a great service. And I sincerely hope his battery factory succeeds brilliantly. Until something better comes along and maybe Elon will develop that as well.

StWils
13th June, 2014 @ 10:16 am PDT

If I had the choice between an Elon Musk who's open patent move may benefit himself at the same time it benefits other businesses as well as the planet, or choose some business man who keeps his patents locked away to benefit himself and stockholders while screwing the planet ................. well I would take an Elon Musk any day.

antiguajohn
13th June, 2014 @ 10:33 am PDT

Seems a lot of people are very pleased with Mr Musk's decision to "free source" his battery patents, I wonder how people feel about free sourcing all intellectual property?

BrianT
13th June, 2014 @ 10:39 am PDT

As long as intellectual property is being used in a responsible and for the common-good I'm all for it being open source. Obviously, there are always people who use information for bad things.

Fretting Freddy the Ferret pressing the Fret
13th June, 2014 @ 12:38 pm PDT

Computer software that was open sourced early in the piece was copied by companies who had no intention but to line their pockets.

I suspect that it isn't possible to protect such patents due to the number of variations on a basic concept ie try to patent fire

Gavin Roe
13th June, 2014 @ 03:14 pm PDT

Smart move on Elon Musk's part, as Musk wisely realizes he can make a lot more money making EV technology more popular. than protecting patents that will quickly become obsolete. Certainly, the Tesla Model S is the best vehicle of its class, as it won top honors from MOTOR TREND, AUTOMOBILE and CONSUMER REPORTS.

Robert Fallin
13th June, 2014 @ 04:30 pm PDT

Maybe speed up EV power etc other issues alone & expand sales & lower the prices for Tesla models anyway & make acessable for rental markets alone

Stephen N Russell
13th June, 2014 @ 06:02 pm PDT

A great move for the benefit of all.............now its the turn of the Pharmaceutical companies to do the same and think of all humans that would benefit from shared technology.............Hmmmmm dream on everyone, it just ain't going to happen.

bf_308
14th June, 2014 @ 01:10 am PDT

I applaud the action, but not the responses.

Most do not understand what a patent "Is or Does" and even less know why it even exists. For shame.

What comes from my mind, and my work is mine, and mine alone. I have the Right to decide what to do with my idea, my product, my design. MY WORK AND MY MONEY CAUSED IT TO BE. You never had it before, and it was not taken from you, you didn't purchase it, nor did you create it. You just WANT it. Too bad, it ain't your's.

What a patent does, is protect my investment in time and money, for a time that may be shorter than what it took to develop. Patents used to be lifetime, and even beyond. Then they dropped to twenty years for most stuff, then dropped even further, with somethings having only 7 years or so before they go public.

In that time, I need to recover my costs in design and development, (I will never recover the time involved in concept, and design). Time away from family, and leisure activities. Time spent working toward a future.

You act like "profit" were a dirty word. It is not. The economy is an engine. It runs on futures, investments, stocks and bonds, and faith, it is restricted by taxes and regulations. Profits are the throttle. Without profit, nothing ever happens. It is the lifeblood of business.

You think drug prices are high? You ever wonder why? The manufacture may have 50 drugs in production, testing, animal trials, human trials, ect., but only two make it far enough to be passed for public safety, and FDA approval, yet the costs of all 50 drugs have to be paid for by the two which make it to the market. And they only have a few years, from their patent date, to recover those costs, and hopefully make a profit. For without a profit motive, there will be no more progress. No one works for free.

You want people to give away their patent rights? You first. You always have the right to give away what you already own. No one is stopping you, but you. Go ahead. Give away your house and car, your bank account, and your family's future. It is no different with a patent, it is an item of value (with a time limit) , after that limit, it is useless, except as research. It is a padlock to protect my investment, no different than locking my doors.

I am pleased, the gentleman released his patents, only because it fits with his goal, not because it allows you to steal his work, or to save the planet. (that phrase annoys me almost as much as "it takes a village to raise a child. " complete bullcrap . It takes a parent.)

Patents are not evil, profit is not a dirty word, providing for your family's future is not a sin, and what is mine is not your's just because you want it.

This country was known as a nation of "shop keepers" from it's inception, where profit motive was fully understood, and fortunes were won and lost by merit, and hard work, and free enterprise. Not by I want some, gimme, gimme, gimme!

A man may have only one marketable idea, in his entire lifetime. It might be a cure for all forms of cancer, or a new pet rock. But he has the RIGHT to decide what to do with it. He may release it, or hitch his wagon to it, and see where the ride takes him. But ANYONE who would take it from him is a thief, not a Savior, or World Healer, just another thug with a knife.

I have a working prototype, and will Patent. It will benefit people, and I will (hopefully) turn a profit by doing so. What is it? Do you have it now? Do you even know why you would want it? No....then by what Right is it owed to you? None.

kellory
14th June, 2014 @ 10:31 am PDT

The reason he is letting others use his pattens is because it will benefit his business. He needs to to get a charging station through the US and world to make his product viable. That cost money. He can move much faster the and therefore make more money sooner if the network gets made faster. This cost money. By opening it up, he is able to use the money of other companies to create a better network for his own cars. The reverse is also true. By giving Tesla Motors money to support their network, other companies get not only the benefit of their money but Tesla or anyone else who goes into that deals money. It is a win win for all companies. In short, sharing these particular pattens not only makes his company more profitable but it also achieves one of his goals in life.

Chishiki
14th June, 2014 @ 09:55 pm PDT

Apparently his lawyer told him that his patents are unenforceable.

Slowburn
14th June, 2014 @ 10:48 pm PDT

@Kellory, WELL SAID!!!

Chevypower
14th June, 2014 @ 11:14 pm PDT

OK that does it, this guy is my hero.

If we were to abolish this patent nonsense today. In a decade time we would be a space fairing species.

Imagine a world where the wheel was patented and so was fire. Or boats, or houses, or the pen and paper, or clocks, and maps and calendar. I need not go farther

Equilibrium
15th June, 2014 @ 11:59 am PDT

Umm, the wheel IS patented, as a "child's marble game." It was a challenge due to a bet. The gentleman involved had to attempt either fire or the wheel, and was successful in his attempt.... his patent shows a basic bicycle front wheel.

kellory
15th June, 2014 @ 08:20 pm PDT

As a consultant software and systems architect, going back to the first commercial microprocessor, I can tell you this!

Nothing has promoted the advancement of software engineering more than GNU and Linux, because they are open source. Nothing has held back this development more than Microsoft.

Fair play to ye as we say in Ireland. This is the best news since "sliced pan" ... er Bread, so it is!

BTW there is also an Open Source Car, that you buy flat pack or just build from the drawings - Hybrid of course

Pete_Morrison
16th June, 2014 @ 06:31 am PDT

I think this will create better electric vehicles.

BigGoofyGuy
16th June, 2014 @ 07:45 am PDT

Elon Musk is a real leader. He does seem to understand certain things at a depth others fail to. I don't think he is doing it just to further his business enterprises. I just don't see him as that kind of man from the many acts in his somewhat public life.

The Tesla Model S, in my opinion is the best car out there in its class. If it were just a little bit more affordable I would have two! I drove one and was immensely impressed. I wouldn't get rid of my drop top Porsche but I would drive the Tesla more often.

Kellory, I couldn't agree more or less with you. I agree with much of what you say.

What I disagree with happens with some drug companies. Example: Fentanyl a pain relieving drug first synthesized in the early 60s is now being sold in 2014 with a "special delivery device" made of plastic with a plunger and a small needle, and a tiny vial of glass with a rubber stopper/plunger. I would ask how much does a month's supply cost a cancer / chronic pain patient? $1000, $5000, $10,000, $15,000, $20,000, $25,000, $30,000 or more? This is a drug that has long been on the market.

I mean the drug company has to recoup their costs for inventing the ingenious little device (which took at least a couple weeks) seeing as how the drug itself is way past any protection.

I'm not disagreeing with the concept that our government makes up a huge part of the problem. In my opinion a majority by installing barriers to entry into the field and so many other hurdles with the pretext of protecting consumers.

Would any thinking person deny exceptional medicines to those who need them because there are risks involved? How about let the consumers inform themselves of the risks and take those calculated to improve their lives and government butt the heck out! That's the Libertarian in me raging.

I leave it to the public to decide, which they already have in ignorance.

The answer to the question as to a month's supply of a medicine synthesized in the early 1960s cost today is...$25,000! Outrageous by anyone's standards I would think. Alas, there are those out there that have no apparent standards.

Bryan Haslett
25th July, 2014 @ 09:35 am PDT
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