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.
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.