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Tesla Motors open-sources patents

Fri, 13 Jun 2014

Since Elon Musk founded Tesla Motors a decade ago, his electric car venture has been a thorn in the traditional auto manufacturers' side.

Now, Musk has made another disruptive move by announcing he is scrapping the firm's patents. In a blog post on the Tesla website, he wrote "[the patents] have been removed, in the spirit of the open source movement, for the advancement of electric vehicle technology.

"Tesla Motors was created to accelerate the advent of sustainable transport. 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. Tesla will not initiate patent lawsuits against anyone who, in good faith, wants to use our technology."

In a further symbolic gesture, the display of patents obtained by the firm has been removed from the wall of the lobby at its Palo Alto headquarters.

Opening up Tesla's lengthy list of patents has the potential to be a game-changer, both in terms of technology, and how patents are shared and licensed within the hyper-competitive development of a new generation of energy-efficient drivetrains.

But although it could be a catalyst for speeding up development of electric cars, Musk's move should not be seen as altruistic.

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

By opening up Tesla's technology – widely regarded as some of the most advanced in the industry – Musk is attempting to ensure that Tesla's standards for charging infrastructure, batteries and electrical connections become the industry standard.

Tesla is already in talks with BMW to share technology and charging stations, and it foresees many other agreements arising from sharing this knowledge with the broader industry.

Therefore, if Musk's mission is successful, it'll be his drivetrains, chargers and infrastructure that will shape the packaging and design of tomorrow's electric cars.

By Karl Smith