In a blog post, the colorful billionaire founder of Tesla promised the company “will not initiate patent lawsuits against anyone who, in good faith, wants to use our technology.”
It was a remarkable move in an industry where the smallest idea or seed of invention is carefully guarded to protect its monetary value.
And it in fact came on the same day US prosecutors charged a Chinese national with stealing secrets from Apple’s self-driving vehicle project.
“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.”
In fact Musk said he was now skeptical of patents which too often only served “to stifle progress” and helped enrich giant corporations and lawyers rather than inventors.
He said he had earlier felt compelled to file patents for Tesla to prevent big car companies from copying the technology and using the huge marketing and sales apparatus to take over the market.
“We couldn’t have been more wrong. The unfortunate reality is the opposite,” he said, noting that electric or clean-fuel cars “at the major manufacturers are small to non-existent.”
But with car production continuing at 100 million a year “it is impossible for Tesla to build electric cars fast enough to address the carbon crisis,” Musk said.
Have other companies making electric cars and the world would benefit from rapid advances in technology.
“We believe that applying the open-source philosophy to our patents will strengthen rather than diminish Tesla’s position,” and ability to attract talented engineers, he said.
Shares of Tesla declined again Thursday after dropping Wednesday following mixed results for 2018.