Tesla makes electric car patents open source

Electric car manufacturer Tesla Motors, which is run by South African Elon Musk, has announced it is making its patents open source to boost its industry.

The company said it was giving its patents to “the open source movement,” to help spur electric vehicle technology, with chief executive officer (CEO) Musk – who created PayPal and is also head of space travel company SpaceX – saying the move was designed to help advance electric vehicle technology.

“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,” Musk said in a blog post.

He said Tesla Motors was created to accelerate the advent of sustainable transport, but “intellectual property landmines” were detracting from that goal.

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

“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 realised that receiving a patent really just meant that you bought a lottery ticket to a lawsuit, I avoided them whenever possible.”

He said Tesla had felt compelled to create patents to stop large car companies copying its technology, but that this had proved not to be the case.

“We couldn’t have been more wrong. The unfortunate reality is the opposite: electric car programmes (or programmes for any vehicle that doesn’t burn hydrocarbons) at the major manufacturers are small to non-existent, constituting an average of far less than one per cent of their total vehicle sales,” Musk said.

“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.”

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