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 1606

"Where would Frankenstein and his creative mind fit into today's workplace? Should we fear technological developments or embrace them?"

E&T jobs

  • Manufacturing Development & Deployment Engineer

    BAE Systems
    • Preston, England, Lancashire
    • Negotiable

    Manufacturing Development & Deployment Engineer Would you like to help operate within a multi-disciplined environment working closely with TX, FCAS, JSF, Typhoon, Hawk and other projects to develop, deploy and support new leading edge manufacturing pr

    • Recruiter: BAE Systems

    Apply for this job

  • Information Assurance Practitioner

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

    Information Assurance PractitionerWould you like to join a world class defence organisation and develop your skills in Information Assurance? We currently have a vacancy for an Information Assurance Practitioner at our site in Barrow-in-Furness, Cumbria.A

    • Recruiter: BAE Systems

    Apply for this job

  • Consultant Engineer - Information Assurance

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

    Consultant Engineer - Information AssuranceWould you like to have a strategic influence on the development of Information Assurance (IA) policies for a national nuclear deterrence programme? We currently have a vacancy for a Consultant Engineer - Informat

    • Recruiter: BAE Systems

    Apply for this job

  • Systems Engineer

    National Air Traffic Services
    • Fareham, England, Hampshire
    • Negotiable

    NATS is a leading air navigation services specialist, handling 2.2 million flights in 2013/14, covering the UK and eastern North Atlantic. NATS provides air traffic control from centres at Swanwick, Hampshire and Prestwick, Ayrshire. NATS also provides ai

    • Recruiter: National Air Traffic Services

    Apply for this job

  • Software Engineer

    BAE Systems
    • England, Somerset
    • Negotiable

    Software Engineer Would you like a role which enables you to make a difference to people on the frontline? We currently have a vacancy for a Software Engineer at our site in Yeovil. As a Software Engineer, you will be developing product solutions in Java/

    • Recruiter: BAE Systems

    Apply for this job

  • Software Engineer

    BAE Systems
    • England, Hampshire, Portsmouth
    • Competitive package

    As a Software Engineer, you will be investigating how technology and data can be used to optimise the services we provide to our clients, including the Royal Navy, and will include unique pieces of equipment at the forefront of innovation.

    • Recruiter: BAE Systems

    Apply for this job

  • IM&T Manager - (Product Management)

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

    IM&T Manager - (Product Management) We currently have a vacancy for an IM&T Manager - (Product Management) at our site in Barrow. As an IM&T Manager - Product Management you will be working within the planning support group, responsible for a

    • Recruiter: BAE Systems

    Apply for this job

  • Electronics Engineer

    Premium job

    Nikon Metrology Europe
    • Tring, Hertfordshire

    Nikon Metrology is looking for an Electronics Engineer to join our Electronics Team based in Tring (UK).

    • Recruiter: Nikon Metrology Europe

    Apply for this job

  • Cyber, Communication, Information and Data Scientist roles

    Premium job

    Dstl
    • Porton Down, Salisbury
    • Competitive salaries

    Information is everything. Use it to serve your country and help keep us safe.

    • Recruiter: Dstl

    Apply for this job

  • Electrical Training Officer / NVQ 3 Assessor

    Premium job

    JTL
    • Norwich, Norfolk
    • Competitive + Pension + Personal BUPA cover

    As a Qualified Electrician, you know what it takes to complete electrical work to exceptional standards of safety and quality.

    • Recruiter: JTL

    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