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Tesla opens its EV patents to the world

By Bob Nagy on June 13, 2014 3:58 PM
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Seeking to encourage more automakers to embrace a cleaner, greener future based on electric power, Tesla Motors boss Elon Musk has announced that his firm's proprietary knowledge used in the current Model S and future vehicles will be available to any group who wishes to use it. "Tesla will not initiate patent lawsuits against anyone who, in good faith, wants to use our technology," he stated in a blog posting on the company's website. Musk admitted that his original move to ensure legal protection for the innovative designs Tesla employs was motivated by a fear that big, well-funded car companies would simply poach those ideas and ultimately overwhelm his startup operation. That has not proven to be the case. 

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"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 one percent of their total vehicle sales." Musk further noted that it's simply impossible for Tesla to turn out EVs quickly enough to address the carbon crisis he feels is being exacerbated by the existing global fleet of nearly 2 billion conventionally powered vehicles and the arrival of nearly 100 million more each year.  

Tesla's forward-thinking top exec sees the decision to let others benefit from the firm's knowledge and established design expertise as a long-term win-win situation that will lead to significant economies of scale. With Tesla currently in the process of finding a suitable site to build what will become the world's largest production facility for advanced lithium-ion batteries, anything that could jump start public demand for more EVs would clearly yield major benefits for all parties involved. 

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Musk confirmed that Tesla will still continue to file for patents in the future when appropriate, primarily as a defensive measure to ensure what it considers critical innovations don't get tied up or blocked by other, less-enlightened operations. He's convinced this open source approach to all of its patents will strengthen rather than diminish the firm's competitive position. "We believe that Tesla, other companies making electric cars, and the world would all benefit from a common, rapidly-evolving technology platform." BMW reportedly is the first automaker to have made overtures to Musk about taking advantage of Tesla's offer. It will be interesting to see who's next in line. 

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