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Tesla Motors: All our patents are belong to you

Tesla Motors CEO and founder Elon Musk shares his patents with the world to aid electric car progress.

Surprising news from Tesla Motors. The Californian electric car manufacturer behind the Model S has decided to share its collection of patents with the world, making all trade secrets fair game to its competitors.

Sunset or sunrise for Tesla?
Sunset or sunrise for Tesla?

Tesla CEO and founder Elon Musk announced on the Tesla blog he had “removed” the “wall of Tesla patents in the lobby of our Palo Alto headquarters”. The reason, he said, is for the “advancement of electric vehicle technology”.

Essentially this means that anyone or any company will be able to look at and use the technologies found inside the Tesla Model S and its other vehicles. Musk said: “Tesla will not initiate patent lawsuits against anyone who, in good faith, wants to use our technology.”

This is, as business moves go, about as bold as you can get. Financial suicide, even. Essentially the secrets that have allowed Tesla to create an extremely fast electric car capable of up to a 300-mile range could be used against it. Patents are meant to be there to keep ideas from being stolen, after all.

The reality, according to Musk, is that patents ‘stifle’ progress. The billionaire entrepreneur and founder of online payment company PayPal discovered its competitors were putting little to no effort into addressing the world’s ‘carbon crisis’, claiming electric car programs represent less than one per cent of total vehicle sales.

Tesla Motors has admitted it is unable to supply the global fleet of two billion cars without help from the bigger manufacturers and so it has shared its knowledge in a bid to open the flood gates of progress.

“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. We believe that Tesla, other companies making electric cars, and the world would all benefit from a common, rapidly-evolving technology platform,” Musk explained.

“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,” he added.

Tesla had revealed it was looking into sharing its secrets at the UK launch of the Model S in London.

Before you suggest Elon Musk checks his headlines more thoroughly before publishing an article, you should know it is a reference to the Mega Drive/Genesis video game Zero Wing. What was meant to say “all your bases belong to us” was mistranslated and it has since become an internet phenomenon.

Tesla Motors technology can already be found being used by a rival. Mercedes-Benz, for example, used a Tesla-built battery and powertrain in the all-electric version of the B-Class.

The top-of-the-range Tesla Model S Performance is capable of 0 to 60mph in 4.2 seconds and has a top speed of 130mph. An electric motor mated to an 85-kWh battery provides an instant 416hp and 443lb/ft (600Nm) of torque.

Prices start from £49,900 including the UK government plug-in grant of £5,000.

Check out our Model S review.

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