Tesla Tosses Patents: Disruptive Altruism or Good Business?

Written by

The message from Silicon Valley is that patents are worth protecting, hoarding and fighting about in court.

So what are we to conclude from Elon Musk’s announcement last week that he was tossing all Tesla’s hard-won patents?

Musk wrote on the Tesla blog:

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.

Was this another provocative Musk move designed to ratchet up the customer base for his product? Or an industry-disrupting act of altruism that lets other car companies build on the electric transportation technology Tesla has pioneered?

Hear different reactions from Dan Sturges, a “mobility” expert, working with Team Red, a European consultancy, and Eric Noble, president of CARLAB president and professor at Art Center College of Design.