When Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk announced the electric automaker was paving a way for the electric auto industry by making all of its patents open-source, the world’s tech and automotive press exploded. The biggest automotive patent giveaway of the last few decades — perhaps of all time — everyone from electric car drivers to business analysts dreamed of what the Great Patent Giveaway of 2014 would do to change the automotive world forever.
Yet less than a month on, some of the world’s biggest automakers are stubbornly ignoring Tesla’s vast electric car patent treasure trove, with some dismissing Tesla altogether.
As Autobloggreen reports, while Nissan and BMW have been in active talks with Tesla about potentially working together on electric vehicle technology, Honda and GM are positively shocked by the notion that they would even consider using Tesla’s technology.
When asked for its opinions on Tesla patents, Honda side-stepped the issue. “We strongly feel Honda is a leader in the field of electric drive technologies and already has one of the most energy efficient vehicles on the road — the 118 MPGe EPA-rated Fit EV,” Honda spokeswoman Angie Nucci said. “We feel its power and handling make it one of the most fun-to-drive EVs on the market.”
For those taking notes, that’s the same Honda Fit EV which, despite a massive waiting list, will end production this year at Honda’s behest.
General Motors, the company behind the Chevrolet Volt, Spark EV and Cadillac ELR, was similarly dismissive.
“Right now we don’t have anybody seriously studying [Tesla’s] patents,” said Kevin Kelly, manager of electrification technology communications. “We’re interested in what they’re doing more from the buisness side.”
Other automakers, including Ford, Toyota and Chrysler, didn’t even respond to Autobloggreen’s questions asking for their thoughts on Tesla Technology. This either indicates these three feel Tesla’s patents are worthless, or they’ve looked — and don’t want other companies knowing they’re considering Tesla technology for a future vehicle.
Given none of the three are known for their love of electric vehicles — each preferring hybrids, hydrogen or more efficient engines instead — it’s certainly plausible Ford, Toyota and Chrysler are ignoring Tesla’s patents.
The reasons for this, claim some analysts, is that Tesla hasn’t yet laid out the basis of its patent giveaway in solid legal terms. Aside from a blog post by Tesla Motors [NASDAQ:TSLA] CEO Elon Musk, there isn’t yet a clear framework on which the patents can be used. While Elon Musk’s ‘in good faith’ terminology makes for great headlines, it’s not the standard boilerplate legalese most automakers are used to dealing with. Combine this with Musk’s hints that he’d expect automakers who used Tesla patents to reciprocate with some of theirs, and it’s clear to see why some automakers are staying clear.
Then there’s the whole task of digging through Tesla’s patent treasure trove. For every patent detailing its use of battery technology, power train deployment or charging system, there are many more pertaining to almost benign details, like the shape of a dashboard or the way a door opens. While many of Tesla’s recent patents have revolved around its battery and drivetrain technologies, any company wishing to use its patents must first sift the wheat from the automotive chaff.
Of course, there is another explanation: if you were a global automaker poring over recently-released patents which could revolutionise the way you make and sell cars, would you want your rivals knowing that fact?
The real effects of Tesla’s patent giveaway — or rather the information contained in them — won’t be known for years.
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