Tesla patent giveaway to boost electric vehicle take-up

13 June 2014
By Edd Gent
Mobile version
Share |
Tesla's Model S is the most advanced consumer electric car, but CEO Elon Musk has decided to give away his firms intellectual property for free

Tesla's Model S is the most advanced consumer electric car, but CEO Elon Musk has decided to give away his firms intellectual property for free

Electric car maker Tesla Motors will give away the company's entire patent portfolio to anyone who promises not to engage courtroom battles over intellectual property.

The move, announced by chief executive Elon Musk in a blog on the company's website, is designed to encourage other manufacturers to expand beyond petrol-burning vehicles and opens the door to more collaboration with Tesla, which is already making electric systems for Daimler and Toyota.

“Tesla Motors was created to accelerate the advent of sustainable transport,” wrote Musk.  “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.”

Other car makers using Tesla's technology could potentially share the cost of Tesla's charging stations, and more charging stations could entice sceptical buyers concerned about their range to try electric cars.

The Palo Alto, California-based company currently makes one vehicle – the $70,000 (£41,733) Model S sedan – and is developing two others. Its Model X crossover is due out next year, and Tesla wants to start making a cheaper model by 2017.

It is also currently scouting locations for a $5bn battery factory to increase supplies, but Musk said Tesla cannot make a dent in the market by itself, and thinks the patents could be a "modest" help to other companies developing electric cars.

He said Tesla has gotten few requests for technology from rivals, but he thinks that is partly because patents were blocking access.

"If we can do things that don't hurt us and help the US industry, than we should do that," he said.

Prashand Kumta, a professor at the University of Pittsburgh's school of engineering, said Tesla's lithium-ion battery technology is not unique, but how the company packages that technology and designs its cars could be useful to other companies.

At the start of this year, Tesla had been issued 203 patents covering its batteries and other key features that distinguish its electric cars from gasoline-powered vehicles. Another 280 patent applications are still pending in the US and other countries, according to Tesla's regulatory filings.

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.

But other companies have shown that technology giveaways can pay off. Even though it spent millions designing Android, Google made the software available to all comers at no charge. Google was more interested in expanding the market for mobile devices and ensuring its search engine and other digital services supported by advertising would be prominently featured on them.

The strategy has worked out well for Google so far. Android is now on more than one billion devices, surpassing Apple's iOS as the world's most widely used mobile operating system.

The open-source movement has long appealed to the egalitarian mindset of most technologists, so the patent decision could help recruit talent. Musk named his company after Nikola Tesla, a famous inventor who became so exasperated with the legal system that he finally stopped patenting his ideas.

"Technology leadership is determined by where the best engineers want to work," Musk said. "Putting in long hours for a corporation is hard. Putting in long hours for a cause is easy."

Latest Issue

E&T cover image 1607

"As the dust settles after the referendum result, we consider what happens next. We also look forward to an international summer of sport."

E&T jobs

  • Chair in Integrated Sensor Technology

    The University of Edinburgh
    • Edinburgh, City of Edinburgh

    The University of Edinburgh is one of the world’s top 20 institutions of higher education.....

    • Recruiter: The University of Edinburgh

    Apply for this job

  • Principal Electrical Engineer - Power

    BAE Systems
    • Bristol, England / Cumbria, Barrow-In-Furness, England
    • Negotiable

    Principal Electrical Engineer - Power Join our Electrical Power team and help design the self-contained generation and distribution system for the Successor submarine - a new generation of submarine designed to carry the UK's independent nuclear deterrent

    • Recruiter: BAE Systems

    Apply for this job

  • Operations Supervisor (Mechanical/Electrical/Instrumentation)

    National Grid
    • England, Cambridgeshire
    • £33000 - £39000 per annum

    Operations Supervisor - (Mechanical/Electrical/Instrumentation) Salary: Circa £33k - 39k dependant on experience + vehicle and great additional benefits (share scheme, pension, potential bonus).Location: Wisbech - Cambridgeshire We currently have an excit

    • Recruiter: National Grid

    Apply for this job

  • Lead NDT Trainer

    BAE Systems
    • England, Lancashire
    • Competitive package

    Would you like to be involved with training UK and international teams in Non Destructive Inspection (NDI) to support the in service fleet (Typhoon Tornado, and Hawk)?

    • Recruiter: BAE Systems

    Apply for this job

  • Systems Design - Emerging Portfolio

    MBDA
    • Bristol
    • Competitive Salary & Benefits

    What?s the opportunity?   There are fantastic opportunities in Systems Design for engineers to work within Future Systems. These are highly visible, fast paced roles, in...

    • Recruiter: MBDA

    Apply for this job

  • Metering Engineer

    Department for Business, Innovation and Skills
    • Teddington, United Kingdom
    • £24,109 - £27,961 plus EO Electronics PE of £8,090.00

    We are now looking for a Metering Engineer to deliver RD’s In-Service Testing (IST) scheme for gas and electricity meters.

    • Recruiter: Department for Business, Innovation and Skills

    Apply for this job

  • Head of Operational Estates

    Premium job

    The Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital NHS Trust
    • Shrewsbury, Shropshire
    • £46,625 to £57,640 per annum

    As an experienced Estates Manager, you will play a key role in helping to shape the future of the Estates service.

    • Recruiter: The Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital NHS Trust

    Apply for this job

  • Engineering Project Manager - Electrical & Automation

    Nestle
    • York, North Yorkshire
    • c£45,000 + Car Allowance + Bonus + Excellent Benefits

    Nestlé Product Technology Centre in York currently has an excellent opportunity for an Engineering Project Manager

    • Recruiter: Nestle

    Apply for this job

  • Assistant Professor (Tenure Track) of Smart Building Solutions

    Premium job

    ETH Zurich
    • Zurich, Canton of Zürich (CH)

    The successful candidate is expected to develop a strong and visible research programme in the area of control and diagnostics of building systems

    • Recruiter: ETH Zurich

    Apply for this job

  • Process Controls Leader

    Premium job

    Phillips 66
    • Humber Refinery, South Killingholme, North Lincolnshire DN40 3DW
    • £60k - 75k plus extensive Compensation and benefits package, dependent upon experience

    Experienced Process Control Leader providing leadership and technical support for Oil Refinery. Extensive Compensation and benefits package.

    • Recruiter: Phillips 66

    Apply for this job

More jobs ▶

Subscribe

Choose the way you would like to access the latest news and developments in your field.

Subscribe to E&T