Tesla Gives Away All its Patents for Free

The culture of open-source information just got a massive supporter. Tesla Motors has voluntarily revoked every patent the company previously held in the field of electric-powered vehicles, opening up other companies to use Tesla’s original ideas for free.

The unprecedented move comes as Tesla Motors’ founder and CEO Elon Musk released a statement citing his passion for zero-emissions vehicles and his belief in the growing need for such vehicles. “Given that annual new vehicle production is approaching 100 million per year and the global fleet is approximately 2 billion cars, it is impossible for Tesla to build electric cars fast enough to address the carbon crisis.”

With that, the company is now open to sharing its discoveries and innovations in developing, building, selling, and recharging electric vehicles. Well-established automakers like General Motors, Ford Motor Company, Toyota Motor Corporation, and others will now have free access to Tesla’s once-protected innovations.

Musk further elaborates in his candidly written letter that the electric car industry and eventually the world will benefit from having access to open-sourced and rapidly evolving technology.

Tesla originally held patents on its developments out of fear the large automakers would copy the technology and snuff out Tesla’s small operation. However, now that Tesla has made a such a name for itself and has a well-established (yet still rapidly growing) network of Supercharger recharging stations, that likelihood has diminished. What’s more, Musk points out that out of the 100-million vehicles produced annually, less than one percent of those are zero emissions. Thus far, Tesla’s competition seems noticeably absent.

Click past the jump to read more about Tesla’s giveaway.

Why it matters

Besides Tesla’s bold and unprecedented move to release all its patents, this is massive news for every other automaker in the industry. Now companies the world over can use Tesla’s already-established developments as a springboard to further the electric car for greater, more widespread use in everyday life.

Granted, this news will likely not come to fruition for several more years due to the average automotive development schedule, but it’s likely we’ll see several automaker enter the electric car market for the first time or perhaps just make their current products better.

This is a seriously bold move by Tesla. We just hope Musk and his talented team of auto designers and builders don’t lose their shirts over this.

Tesla Model S

Tesla Model S

Starting production in 2012, the Tesla Model S is the realization of entrepreneur Elon Musk and his goal of making electric cars a reality. Fed up with the public’s notion that electric cars were slow and ugly, he and his company designed and built the Model S.

Costing between $57,000 and nearly $100,000, the Models S is a luxurious four-door machine with a maximum cruising range of over 300 miles. Its track performance is respectable as well, doing 0 to 60 mph in just 4.5 seconds on its way to a 126-mph top speed.

Press Release

From Tesla Founder and CEO Elon Musk

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.

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

At Tesla, however, we felt compelled to create patents out of concern that the big car companies would copy our technology and then use their massive manufacturing, sales and marketing power to overwhelm Tesla. We couldn’t have been more wrong. The unfortunate reality is the opposite: electric car programs (or programs for any vehicle that doesn’t burn hydrocarbons) at the major manufacturers are small to non-existent, constituting an average of far less than 1% of their total vehicle sales.

At best, the large automakers are producing electric cars with limited range in limited volume. Some produce no zero emission cars at all.

Given that annual new vehicle production is approaching 100 million per year and the global fleet is approximately 2 billion cars, it is impossible for Tesla to build electric cars fast enough to address the carbon crisis. By the same token, it means the market is enormous. 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.

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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