Jul 8, 2014
Tesla Just Giving Away Patents Like It’s No Big Deal
Tesla Motors, the terrestrial component of Elon Musk’s plan for global domination, has decided to give away all its patents for free, just like that, poof, no foolin’. Musk announced the news yesterday on the company’s blog, explaining that there is no way for Tesla to singlehandedly transform the personal transportation industry and save humanity from itself.
Given that annual new vehicle production is approaching 100 million per year and the global fleet is approximately 2 billion cars, it is impossible for Tesla to build electric cars fast enough to address the carbon crisis. By the same token, it means the market is enormous. 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 actually went further down the “Save the Whales” messaging track on a conference call, telling reporters that, “putting in long hours for a corporation is hard, putting in long hours for a cause is easy,” all while apparently keeping a straight face.
At first blush, this seemed like standard-issue Silicon Valley technobabble, in which grown men (it is usually men) talk to us like we’re children who are incapable of checking whether their companies are still registered as for-profit entities. But on closer inspection, Musk is being more honest than that. He writes that patents actually offer scant protection, and that the patent wars in technology are doing nothin’ fer no one, ‘cept fer all them big-city lawyers.
When I started out with my first company, Zip2, I thought patents were a good thing and worked hard to obtain them. And maybe they were good long ago, but too often these days they serve merely to stifle progress, entrench the positions of giant corporations and enrich those in the legal profession, rather than the actual inventors. After Zip2, when I realized that receiving a patent really just meant that you bought a lottery ticket to a lawsuit, I avoided them whenever possible.
This is an easier thing to say when you’ve already made a few hundred million dollars by selling companies that were based off of patents, so we rate Elon Musk’s Privilege Backpack as “Not Fully Unpacked.” Still, he’s not wrong, Walter, he’s just a capitalist, which is at least an ethos.
The move also comes as Tesla plans to open one of the country’s largest plants for making lithium-ion batteries and likely is searching for other customers in addition to its own needs to create volume to lower costs of the cells. Signing up other customers is “creating a market for the Gigafactory,” Driscoll says.
TL;DR: Tesla is tired of all you sheeple puttering around in your dinosaur-powered cars, and they need everyone to get with the goddamn program already. If drivers—American drivers in particular—keep seeing Tesla as fancy flying machines from the future instead of grocery haulers, then Tesla and maybe humanity are pretty much shot anyway. So Tesla wants to see literally anyone else convince drivers to make the switch to electric, while Tesla makes that sweet, sweet lithium-ion battery money on the back end.
Now that the free market has a hold of Tesla’s patents, we expect it to innovate us some hoverboards before Labor Day. Hop to it, job creators.