Tesla Free Patents: Who Can Use It? Elon Musk Clarifies

Back in June last year, Tesla – or rather Elon Musk, CEO of the company – announced he would be releasing all of its patents to help promote the technology and advance electric cars.

This led to a variety of reactions from tech blogs and news sites getting excited, to automotive companies dismissing it altogether to Toyota following suit with its fuel cell patents.

The exact quote that got everyone excited was:

Tesla Motors was created to accelerate the advent of sustainable transport. 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. Tesla will not initiate patent lawsuits against anyone who, in good faith, wants to use our technology.

And that’s where things started to get a little tricksy. ‘In good faith’ is a tad ambiguous and could be taken as a way for Tesla to selectively allow certain organisations to use their patents. Would a car built by, say, GM that was made using many Tesla patents be ‘in good faith’ or not?

How many companies are really taking notice of Tesla's patents?

How many companies are really taking notice of Tesla’s patents?

Transport Evolved clarified this point by digging in to what Musk said a little more. But it seems that some people, and potentially companies, were unsure of where they stood.

Musk, while talking at the Detroit Auto Show this year, was asked about this and clarified where he – and presumably Tesla – stood on the matter.

rear motor Model S

Having been asked if anyone automakers had asked Tesla to use their patents, Musk replied that Tesla doesn’t “require any formal discussions” and that anyone can “just go ahead and use them”. There is no licensing process.

He did go on to say that he thinks consumers will be able to see Tesla’s technology “in cars that come out”.

We’ll just have to wait and see if that second part is true as and when future cars are announced and released. We do wonder, however, now that Musk has clarified his position at a major auto show whether we will now see more uptake of Tesla’s patents.

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  • D. Harrower

    How hard is it to place a phone call? If automakers were truly interested in any of Tesla’s patents, it’s simple enough to inquire about any conditions of such an arrangement and refuse/accept them accordingly.nnPersonally, I think the old school OEMs didn’t want to give Tesla credit for any developments before they took a crack at it themselves. That way they always have the old “electric vehicles are too expensive to develop” excuse. If they accepted Tesla’s offer to jumpstart their EV programs, they couldn’t use that excuse any longer.

  • heltonja

    I’m sure the legal department at any major manufacturer would recommend against using a Tesla patent without express written authorization.

    • I agree, in today’s litigious climate, I would sure have a written authorization from the patent holder(s) prior to using the technology. Patent trolling is now being conducted by foreign governments too.