Good news, environmentalists and car enthusiasts alike! Tesla Motors is opening up its patents to the public! Okay, so it may not be as simple as a how-to guide on building your own zero emissions electric vehicle, but, this is a huge step for the open source movement and the advancement of EV technology.
CEO, Elon Musk, announced via blog post on the Tesla website that the company hopes to “accelerate the advent of sustainable transport” by pledging that they “will not initiate patent lawsuits against anyone who, in good faith, wants to use [their] technology.”
Musk followed up his written announcement with a conference call to shareholders and the press. He explained that the convoluted patent system inhibits innovation in an especially tough market. Electric cars make up less than 1% of total vehicle sales in the United States. “Our 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.” By sharing its technology, Tesla hopes to incentivize other motor companies to help develop the infrastructure needed to make electric vehicles appeal to consumers. For example, potential drivers need to be persuaded that charging stations are as readily available to accommodate their electric cars as gas stations are for other vehicles.
But this doesn’t mean Tesla’s patent attorneys are out of their jobs just yet. The extent of the legal effect of this promise is still unclear. Commentators have questioned the parameters of “good faith” usage of Tesla’s patented technology. Will the company respond differently to a major motor company borrowing their technology versus a small, start-up company?
Musk responds, “We wouldn’t want someone to mimic our car to . . . trick people into thinking it’s our car when it’s not,” perhaps reminiscing on the 2008 lawsuit against Fisker Automotives. Tesla will still be filing patents, just not enforcing them.
In the meantime, the dream of owning a $75k car just got a little realer for this law student.