In a major win for the open source movement, Tesla announced Thursday it would no longer protect its patents. That is, the California-based electric car maker would not initiate legal action against any company using technology Tesla previously patented.
"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 CEO Elon Musk writes in a post titled, "All Our Patent Are Belong to You" on the company's blog.
The patents were in the public domain before, but now, they are not only publically accessible but also publically usable.
The move exemplifies the push in Silicon Valley for patent reform, a movement hinged on the belief that technology evolves too quickly for the cumbersome U.S. patent system and that the sharing of intellectual property leads to greater – and faster – innovation.
"We believe that Tesla, other companies making electric cars, and the world would all benefit from a common, rapidly-evolving technology platform," Musk writes.
"Technology leadership is not defined by patents, which history has repeatedly shown to be small protection indeed against a determined competitor, but rather by the ability of a company to attract and motivate the world’s most talented engineers. We believe that applying the open source philosophy to our patents will strengthen rather than diminish Tesla’s position in this regard."
Musk's hope is that by sharing Tesla's technological successes with other electric carmakers, Tesla will help propel the fledgling electric car industry and thus create a more robust market for its battery-powered vehicles.
"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," he writes.
A more active electric car environment also could pave the way for more charging station infrastructure developments, a major stumbling block in the maturation of the industry. With more players interested in building out the network, shared cost projects could emerge, making the efforts more affordable and more expansive.
And, beyond simply creating a greater market for its electric vehicles, Tesla stands to benefit from an increased demand for the batteries it soon will produce at its Gigafactory.