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Tesla's shocking new strategy

Posting in Transportation

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Earlier this week there was news that Tesla was considering opening up its patents for Supercharger stations. Tesla took it one (big) step further and opened up all of its patents to anyone using them "in good faith," for free.

What is Tesla thinking?!

Tesla CEO Elon Musk says that he made the decision to open up all of Tesla's patents "for the advancement of electric vehicle technology" and he's doing it in the "spirit of the open source movement."

"When I started out with my first company, Zip2, I thought patents were a good thing and worked hard to obtain them," Musk wrote on Tesla's blog. "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."

So is Musk just being a nice guy?

Not exactly. It doesn't mean Tesla is giving away all of its trade secrets.

Will this move benefit Tesla in the long run?

Musk made the case that the electric car market is small enough at this point that it won't hurt Tesla.

"Electric car programs (or programs for any vehicle that doesn't burn hydrocarbons) at the major manufacturers are small to non-existent, constituting an average of far less than 1% of their total vehicle sales," he said.

And that means that Tesla's biggest roadblock isn't other electric cars, as Slate explains:

"The more money is put into electric batteries, the cheaper and more powerful they'll become. The more electric cars there are on the road, the greater will be the demand for regional and national networks of electric charging stations."

At the same time, will big automakers take advantage of Tesla's gift?

Photo: Flickr/pestoverde

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— By on June 13, 2014, 8:10 AM PST

Tyler Falk

Contributing Editor

Tyler Falk is a freelance journalist based in Washington, D.C. Previously, he was with Smart Growth America and Grist. He holds a degree from Goshen College. Follow him on Twitter. Disclosure