Breaking the Mold, Tesla Opens its Patents to the Competition

By:   Christian Okolski 

Tesla Motors is certainly a unique company.  It is not only successful start-up automaker, competing with titans such as Ford, GM, and Toyota, but also the manufacturer of all-electric cars and the critically acclaimed Model S.    These two characteristics alone may make Tesla a not-so-common company, but there are plenty more examples of how this California-based tech startup is breaking the mold.  The Tesla Motors blog, for example, is a way for the automaker to reach customers, followers, and the media in a much more intimate and personal way than the common press release.  Even Tesla’s superstar CEO, Elon Musk, takes time to write posts of his own.

In fact, Musk has recently used the blog to reveal one of Tesla’s most unconventional moves to date.  Entitled “All Our Patents Are Belong to You, the CEO’s latest post has announced that the company will take an open-source approach to its patents and not litigate those who want to use Tesla’s technology “in good faith”.  While the title of Musk’s post may be a witty take on a popular internet meme, the content is a passionate affirmation of Tesla’s commitment to sustainable transportation and sincere hope that automakers get serious about electric cars.  As Musk notes, not even one percent of the vehicles sold by major car companies are electric, yet there are roughly 100 million vehicles sold each year.

It looks like Musk’s move to share Tesla’s technological advancements and inspire the electric vehicle industry could already be having an effect.  A report by Business Insider India notes that Mahindra & Mahindra, an Indian automaker, will review Tesla’s patents and their applicability to Mahindra’s REVA electric vehicles.  It also reveals that media reports are claiming that BMW and Nissan are now showing interest in working with Tesla on electric vehicle technology.

With automakers taking a look at Tesla’s patents and expertise, one may wonder if the decision to make Tesla’s intellectual property available to all will erode the company’s competitive advantage.  However, Elon Musk does not seem to think so.  In his blog post, Musk writes that “Tesla, other companies making electric cars, and the world would all benefit from a common, rapidly-evolving technology platform”.  He also insists that Tesla’s success will be defined by its ability “to attract and motivate the world’s most talented engineers”, not patents that “stifle progress”.

Whether or not you agree with the business sense behind Tesla’s decision to share its patents, it is difficult to challenge the start-up automaker’s commitment to electric vehicles and sustainable transportation.  Elon Musk’s post does not just outline why the company has made its startling decision, but also passionately illustrates Tesla’s mission.




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