Yesterday,there was a wall of Tesla patents in the lobby of our Palo Alto headquarters.That is no longer the case. They have been removed, in the spirit of the opensource movement, for the advancement of electric vehicle technology.
Tesla Motors was created toaccelerate the advent of sustainable transport. If we clear a path to thecreation of compelling electric vehicles, but then lay intellectual propertylandmines behind us to inhibit others, we are acting in a manner contrary tothat goal. Tesla will not initiate patent lawsuits against anyone who, in goodfaith, wants to use our technology.
When I started out with myfirst company, Zip2, I thought patents were a good thing and worked hard toobtain them. And maybe they were good long ago, but too often these days theyserve merely to stifle progress, entrench the positions of giant corporationsand enrich those in the legal profession, rather than the actual inventors.After Zip2, when I realized that receiving a patent really just meant that youbought a lottery ticket to a lawsuit, I avoided them whenever possible.
At Tesla, however, we feltcompelled to create patents out of concern that the big car companies wouldcopy our technology and then use their massive manufacturing, sales andmarketing power to overwhelm Tesla. We couldn’t have been more wrong. Theunfortunate reality is the opposite: electric car programs (or programs for anyvehicle that doesn’t burn hydrocarbons) at the major manufacturers are small tonon-existent, constituting an average of far less than 1% of their totalvehicle sales.
At best, the large automakersare producing electric cars with limited range in limited volume. Some produceno zero emission cars at all.
Given that annual new vehicleproduction is approaching 100 million per year and the global fleet isapproximately 2 billion cars, it is impossible for Tesla to build electric carsfast enough to address the carbon crisis. By the same token, it means themarket is enormous. Our true competition is not the small trickle of non-Teslaelectric cars being produced, but rather the enormous flood of gasoline carspouring out of the world’s factories every day.
We believe that Tesla, othercompanies making electric cars, and the world would all benefit from a common,rapidly-evolving technology platform.
Technology leadership is notdefined by patents, which history has repeatedly shown to be small protectionindeed against a determined competitor, but rather by the ability of a companyto attract and motivate the world’s most talented engineers. We believe thatapplying the open source philosophy to our patents will strengthen rather thandiminish Tesla’s position in this regard.