Mi Patent, Su Patent?

The biggest news in technology is that Elon Musk, CEO of Tesla Motors, announced that Tesla would no longer attempt to enforce their patents on electric car technology. This has the potential to push electric car manufacturing forward several years in one fell swoop. Referring to Tesla’s patents, Musk wrote:

They have been removed, in the spirit of the open source movement, for the advancement of electric vehicle technology…Tesla will not initiate patent lawsuits against anyone who, in good faith, wants to use our technology.
Elon Musk (emphasis mine)

The potential fly in the ointment is the phrase “in good faith”. They are retaining the right to enforce their patents, but choosing not too. It makes Musk’s definition of good faith and the consistency of that definition quite important.

I found a particular element of Musk’s reasoning very interesting, because it parallels a central tenet of the philosophy of science communication here at The Finch & Pea.

Given that annual new vehicle production is approaching 100 million per year and the global fleet is approximately 2 billion cars, it is impossible for Tesla to build electric cars fast enough to address the carbon crisis. By the same token, it means the market is enormous. Our true competition is not the small trickle of non-Tesla electric cars being produced, but rather the enormous flood of gasoline cars pouring out of the world’s factories every day.

We believe that Tesla, other companies making electric cars, and the world would all benefit from a common, rapidly-evolving technology platform.
Elon Musk

For both electric cars and science communication, the potential market is so large (science blog readers are just a fraction of online content consumers) that there is no need to fight tooth and nail* for audience. Rather we can work together to grow the audience. Instead of fighting over the size of our slices of pie, we can make the pie bigger.

You also have to appreciate it when Elon Musk gives a solid internet callback in his post’s title “All Our Patent Are Belong to You”.

*This analysis does not really apply if you are a large, established science communication entity with a long-term established audience. You are Ford in this metaphor. Sorry.

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4 responses to “Mi Patent, Su Patent?

  1. Im reminded of how The Wright brothers spent a lot of time trying to fight those who may have used their designs without payment. They might have used that time to make further advances.

    • Patents were meant to be a defense against intellectual theft, not a competitive cudgel.

      The other barrier to Tesla’s market penetration is their business model of direct sales which runs afoul of bizarre car sales laws in most states.

      • Hopefully Elon Musk is as much a genius in politics as he is in engineering, I’d hate to see him go the same route as Preston Tucker from the late 40’s.

  2. Elon Musk is the CEO of SpaceX and Tesla. In these two companies, products manufactured have never been proposed before. For SpaceX (USA), the company is able to sell a rocket launch for satellites for 12000 dollars / kg as cost for Ariane 5 (Europa) is 23000 dollars / kg and for Proton (Russia), 18000 dollars / kg.
    As ILIAD for French Telecommunication, SpaceX is completely redefine the market of space rocket launch. He obliges restructuring Safran (Ariane) into Airbus group in June 2014.
    Elon Musk is also the CEO of Telsa, a company selling only electric cars in USA! Elon Musk is a serial creator, as he was the creator of Paypal sold to Ebay in the 2000′s years.
    If you are interested, I have posted an article about Elon Musk that you can read here:
    http://worldofinnovations.net/2014/06/19/elon-musk-an-exceptional-innovator/

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