All our patent are belong to you

Elon Musk posted this on the Tesla blog today:

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.

Tesla Motors was created to accelerate the advent of sustainable transport. 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. Tesla will not initiate patent lawsuits against anyone who, in good faith, wants to use our technology.

This is a pretty huge step. Some might see this as self-serving on Musk’s part, but I see this as altruistic, through and through.

  • it’s both. It definitely benefits Tesla by ensuring their tech and their R&D drive the industry forward. Liberal licensing of their patents benefits both the industry as whole and Tesla specifically.

    There is nothing that prevents a company from practicing what I call “enlightened greed” or making money without being complete tools about it. That’s what I see this as. Tesla will absolutely benefit from this, both directly and indirectly. That doesn’t remove the altruistic nature of this move, nor demean it.

    Also, was it absolutely necessary to poison the well against anyone not completely agreeing with you by labeling them trolls before they even have a chance to explain their take on this?

    • SockRolid

      Other brands (even legacy fossil-fuel brands) who use Tesla’s technology will validate the electric car concept. Especially as more and more charging stations are built out. And if Tesla’s designs become the de facto standard, then so be it. The world will be better off.

    • Dave Mark

      Absolutely, John. Fair point. I made the change. Well stated. 🙂

  • Evan Hildreth

    I don’t see it as self-serving; I’m just skeptical of the details until there’s actually a written license. Right now it’s just words and good feelings; there’s no actual agreement. The blog post isn’t clear at all HOW this opening up of patents will work, whether through some sort of copyleft license or whether it’s simply that Tesla is committed to licensing them on a Fair and Reasonable basis.

    That being said, good on them.

    • Zepfhyr

      This is true, but having made this public statement will make it infinitely more difficult for them to try and sue anyone that uses one of their patents.

      • Sigivald

        Not really.

        Notice the wording is, “in good faith” …

        Which is not remotely clear or well-defined in this context. The term is so vague (in this context) that I wouldn’t touch one of their patents (if I were in a position to) without a separate agreement, on the basis of this press release.

        • Zepfhyr

          You may not, but a public declaration like this will still weaken their stance and will be used against them in court. It’s not the same as if they had said “Use any of our patents to do whatever you want and we won’t ever sue or ask for royalties.”

          But that doesn’t mean it won’t make it more difficult for them to renege on the deal.

    • Self-serving in the sense that more electric cars produced means more batteries needed to be manufactured. Tesla is hoping that battery demand will be supplied Tesla and its Gigafactory.

  • SockRolid

    Wow. Way to go, Elon!

  • dr.none

    All other car manufacturers have cross licensing of their patents so where in the past they used them to differentiate their brand are not sustainable because of the government mandate to lower emissions. So every company is now using variable valve timings, cylinder shut off, emission tech.

    Almost all of these are coming from OEMS now. So nothing Tesla did is surprising or good.

    Car manufacturing quite different now.

    • that’s what I see this as, continuing the pragmatic approach that the auto industry (and really, a lot of things outside of the computer biz) have towards patents. They are able to protect their IP, (GOOD) while ensuring everyone benefits from their work (GOOD).

  • Sigivald

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

    So, if I wanted to use a Tesla patent, how could I know if Elon would think my use was “in good faith” or not, in advance, and thus know I was secure from being sued, and thus be willing to use the patent?

    The condition is puzzling as well as vague – why not just release the patents entirely?

    • As long as the licensing terms and costs aren’t onerous, who cares about them releasing them. Most of the problems with patents have happened in the software industry. Given the insane levels of “I got mine, fuck you” that lives in that industry, the problems are unsurprising.

      Other industries have handled patents in a sane, rational way for centuries.

      • Michael

        Um… Ever heard of Monsanto? No? Go read up about them.

        • while monsanto is regularly a big bag of dicks, they also have done similar things with their patents. For example, with Golden Rice. From

          “The technology involves modifying the DNA of the commonest rice plant, Oryza sativa, by adding bacterial and daffodil genes to produce rice cells capable of making betacarotene using certain methods patented by the life sciences company Monsanto. Monsanto have now agreed to provide royalty-free licenses for its technologies to help fast-track the further development and distribution of the rice.”

          It’s not quite so binary as one might be led to believe by the popular press.

  • John Barnes

    I like this move and hope it pays off for all parties so that we see more, and more affordable, electric cars with an infrastructure to support them. I would love to see the patents released under a open source type license agreement where anyone can use the patents, but must make any improvements available for all to use.

  • Kriztyan

    This gave me goosebumps. This is truly inspiring.

  • Dirka

    Hydrogen powered vehicles are the way to go, not electric. Electric vehicles use electricity made by burning coal.

    • John Barnes

      Electricity can be generated by much more than just coal.

  • Ken Ross

    Humility is, ultimately, the most selfish state of mind. It’s a beautiful thing when what’s best for your bottom line is also best for most others’, but that only exists inside a certain perspective. This is amazing.

  • EdisonCarter

    Sounds good but I would take him more seriously if he put in some actual facts about it instead of tired pseudo-fun-but-really-concocted-by-PR bullshit lines like “All our patent are belong to you”