Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk on Thursday announced that his company is removing patent barriers currently protecting its intellectual property in an effort to advance the development of electric vehicle (EV) technology.
In a blog post on Tesla’s website, Musk writes that the company was “created to accelerate the advent of sustainable transport” and “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.” Moving forward, Musk says, Tesla will not “initiate patent lawsuits against anyone who, in good faith, wants to use our technology.
Musk writes that, while he used to believe patents were a good thing and worked hard to obtain them, they all too often “serve merely to stifle progress, entrench the positions of giant corporations and enrich those in the legal profession, rather than the actual inventors.”
Tesla originally secured patents to protect itself against big car companies that might copy its technology, then use their massive manufacturing, sales and marketing power to overwhelm the company, Musk writes. But these precautions proved to be unnecessary; EV programs at the major manufacturers are small to non-existent, constituting an average of far less than 1 percent of their total vehicle sales.
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“At best, the large automakers are producing electric cars with limited range in limited volume. Some produce no zero emission cars at all,” Musk says.
Tesla is removing its patents because it is impossible for Tesla to single-handedly scale up the product of EVs to address the carbon crisis. Annual new vehicle production is approaching 100 million per year, and there are around 2 billion carbon-spewing cars on the world’s roads.
The market is enormous, and Tesla’s “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.” In other words; Tesla, other EV-manufacturers, and the world would all benefit from the rapid development of EV technology.
“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.”
In April, a Tesla Model S sedan completed a 24-day, 12,183-mile battery-powered journey across the United States as part of an effort to secure Guinness World Record verification for longest vehicle journey ever taken using 100 percent electric power. The stunt was meant to emphasize the possibilities of the nation's current electric vehicle charging infrastructure. Last year, the Tesla Model S received a five-star safety rating in every subcategory from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), making it part of the one percent of all vehicles tested by the federal government to achieve a perfect score.