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Tesla’s Move to Open Patent Portfolio: Inspired or Foolish?

Posted By Jeff Moad, June 16, 2014 at 12:35 PM, in Category: Sustainability

When is a manufacturer’s patent portfolio more valuable in the public domain than protected behind firewalls and lawyers? When, as open intellectual property, it has the potential to disrupt existing markets and create new ones.

At least that is Tesla Motors’ public rationale for stating last week that, going forward, it “will not initiate patent lawsuits against anyone who, in good faith, wants to use our technology.”

In a blog posted on the company’s site, Elon Musk, CEO of the electric car manufacturer, said he hopes Tesla’s move to suspend legal protection of its patent portfolio will “accelerate the advent of sustainable transport.” In particular, Musk said he hopes opening access to Tesla’s technology will prompt its larger competitors to accelerate their electric car programs, growing the market and reducing the environmental impacts of gas-powered vehicles.

“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,” Musk wrote.

Musk wrote that, besides growing the market for electric vehicles and helping to protect the environment, Tesla’s decision to open its patent portfolio will ultimately increase the pace of innovation within Tesla. “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,” Musk wrote. “We believe that applying the open source philosophy to our patents will strengthen rather than diminish Tesla’s position in this regard.”

What do you think? Is Musk on the right track? Is he foolish?

Category: Sustainability
Written by Jeff Moad

Jeff Moad is Research Director and Executive Editor with the Manufacturing Leadership Community. He also directs the Manufacturing Leadership Awards Program. Follow our LinkedIn Groups: Manufacturing Leadership Council and Manufacturing Leadership Summit


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