Tesla’s CEO recently opened up the company’s patents, allowing any innovator to use them. The reason for opening up these patents is simple: to encourage competition for electric vehicles. Musk’s goal is to help accelerate the development of electric cars, and charging others to use his ideas would slow down the pace of innovation in the electric car industry. However, there is a flip side to this story.
While Tesla has historically embraced an open source philosophy, competitors don’t seem to be concerned with this. In fact, Tesla has a very strong brand name and hasn’t had any problems competing with large automotive OEMs. Moreover, it hasn’t challenged any Tesla patents and isn’t currently marketing knockoffs. Ultimately, it’s a matter of time before Musk opens up the company’s patents.
The company’s patents show steady efforts toward manufacturing, but are not limited to cars. The company holds 80 design patents, including patents for solar panels that look like roof tiles. This helps rivals benchmark against Tesla’s performance and efficiency. The company’s patents also demonstrate a commitment to research and development. There is even a precedent for patenting safety belts. In 1959, Nils Bohlin invented and patented a V-type three-point safety belt that was later made available for rivals.
Why is Tesla opening up its patents? Musk is aiming to drive the electric car market. By allowing anyone to use his technology, he could increase the number of electric car sales and move the world away from oil-burning cars. Musk is also focusing on reforming the patent system in a way that prevents competition and poaching. The new patents will be available to anyone who meets Musk’s guidelines.