Electric car maker Tesla Motors is handing over the keys to its technology in an unusual effort to encourage other manufacturers to expand beyond petrol-burning vehicles. Tesla chief executive Elon Musk promised to give away the company’s entire patent portfolio to all comers, as long as they promised not to engage courtroom battles over intellectual property. Other car makers using Tesla’s technology could now potentially share the cost of Tesla’s charging stations, for example. And more charging stations could entice skeptical buyers to try electric cars.
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 chief executive Elon Musk
Seven years after Tesla introduced the Roadster electric sports car - which it no longer makes - electric cars still make up less than 1% of US sales. Drivers remain concerned about their range and the lack of places to get a charge. Stable gasoline prices have also hurt sales. Musk wants Tesla to help change that. The earliest any of Tesla’s current patents expires is in 2026, so the company is relinquishing a potentially valuable long-term advantage by giving away its intellectual property to its rivals.
By opening its patents, Tesla rightly realizes it’s better to be the best product in a large industry than the only product in a niche one.
Silicon Valley entrepreneur Aaron Levie