Tesla Won’t Sue Competitors Over Patents

by Greg Pollowitz

Last week, Tesla announced a big move with its portfolio of patents that will basically let the large automakers copy their technology. Here’s Tesla’s CEO Elon Musk on the move:

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.

And. . .

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. 

Mr. Musk left out a few things. One, he needs the big automakers to start making electric cars, something they’ve stopped doing, in order to get the infrastructure in place for things like charging stations that will make Teslas — and all electric cars — more attractive. And two, there’s speculation that Tesla needs more automakers in the electric-car space to justify their new battery factory with Panasonic.

Also of note, Tesla hasn’t really opened up or released their patents. They’ve only said they won’t sue a company if that company uses the patent in “good faith.” Good faith remains undefined, however, and until we know more, this announcement looks like nothing but hype.