Elon Musk announced Thursday he had released all of the electric carmaker Tesla’s patents, as part of an effort to fight climate change.
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 sceptical 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.