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Tesla Opens Up Patents to Promote Electric Vehicles

The electric vehicle maker says it won't initiate lawsuits against anyone using its technology.


In a corporate blog post on Thursday, Tesla Chief Executive Elon Musk effectively opened up the company’s patents in an effort to accelerate the development of the electric vehicle sector.

The Palo Alto, Calif.-based maker of the popular Model S sedan said it will “not initiate patent lawsuits against anyone who, in good faith, wants to use our technology.”

It’s an admirable policy that might also make a lot of business sense.

In addition to potentially luring more players into the field, the move could advance common standards for electric vehicles. Both should accelerate the capital-intensive task of building out the necessary infrastructure to support the nascent sector and its customers, notably including service centers and charging stations.

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

The commitment does seem to leave room for Tesla to use its patents defensively, should others attempt to sue the company or demand license fees over intellectual property claims.

Other companies fed up with the ceaseless rounds of IP lawsuits and patent trolls have made similar pledges. In 2012, Twitter introduced an “innovator’s patent agreement,” promising it wouldn’t use patents on employees’ inventions in “offensive litigation without their permission.”

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

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