Few Majors Taking Up Tesla's Open-Source Patent Offer

Cameron Aubernon
by Cameron Aubernon

Remember when earlier this month, Tesla CEO Elon Musk released all of the patents related to his company’s offerings in the hope that all of the major players would eagerly buy into his vision thing of widespread EV production?

It hasn’t turned out as well as Musk had hoped.

Autoblog Green reports only Mahindra is interested in the patents and their potential application in future products; the company once had the e2o EV in its lineup, and is working on an EV version of its Verito Sedan. Meanwhile, General Motors is more interested in how Tesla does its business than how to put together a Model Volt S, Honda is satisfied with its own EV technology, and most of the other players aren’t saying much.

The lack of excitement may be attributed to the fact that, according to The Motley Fool:

Tesla is not revealing its trade secrets. There often is only so much information that you can get from a patent. Only Tesla knows how to put it all together in a cost-effective manner. Besides, by the time the competition digests the patents, some of them may have become outdated, and Tesla likely will have advanced to the next generation of its technology.

Though the patents seem to have more in common with a Cosby Christmas sweater than an Apple iPhone, Nissan and BMW are having secret meetings with Tesla to discuss charging technology. BMW of North America’s product and technology communications manager Matthew Russell proclaimed his employer and Tesla were “interested in the success of electro mobility” for their electric vehicles, though he declined to comment on similar announces from BMW’s competitors.

Cameron Aubernon
Cameron Aubernon

Seattle-based writer, blogger, and photographer for many a publication. Born in Louisville. Raised in Kansas. Where I lay my head is home.

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13 of 40 comments
  • LeadHead LeadHead on Jun 30, 2014

    Why would they? The whole open-sourcing of the patents was just a media stunt to boost interest in Tesla. I HIGHLY doubt that there is anything in those patents that major automakers haven't been aware of for a long time. Just scroll through the patent site do a search for GM, Chrysler, or Ford. They each file dozens of patents every week, including a ton on electric and hybrid vehicles.

  • ChiefPontiaxe ChiefPontiaxe on Jun 30, 2014

    As a patent attorney, I would not counsel my automaker client(s) to go ahead and freely infringe Tesla's patents on the mere basis of a press release.

    • See 3 previous
    • Sigivald Sigivald on Jun 30, 2014

      @ChiefPontiaxe Even more, beyond "it's just a press release", there was that "good faith" caveat that most people seem to have just skimmed over. Without a clear definition of what "good faith" use of the patents *by Tesla's competition* means in this context, it's poison. (Maybe he means "use to make a vehicle but not to attack other companies", which is fair and simple enough. But one should spell it out, not make people infer - especially if one wants giant business entities to take on the risk of using the patents.)

  • EricJ EricJ on Jun 30, 2014

    Resistance from NIH engineering departments will be another big obstacle. The thing is that Tesla/Musk know that they need EVs to reach critical mass if they hope to survive. Giving away anything that a competitor might have to engineer around is a relatively-cheap way to do this. Smartphone manufacturers should do something similar. Lock all the executives in a room with just cheerios and water, only allowing them to leave after everyone has either decided to make a public announcement that they'll no longer enforce their patents, they all have binding agreements to license technology to every other, or they're all dead. Right now, patents are severely hindering progress in numerous fields that could see rapid advancement without them.

    • Sigivald Sigivald on Jun 30, 2014

      Which fields? I don't see any major hindrances in smartphones - most (all?) of the makers seem to already do cross-licensing or straight licensing deals. New progress tends to be innovation that is naturally itself patentable; perhaps you mean that the existing patents are keeping the very things that are patented from being universalized? But that's the whole point of the system - to reward the inventor, rather than having the invention spread to the competition who didn't have to put in any *work* on it. If not that, can you clarify what you mean, what progress you have in mind, exactly?

  • Beerboy12 Beerboy12 on Jun 30, 2014

    What say you we give this one more week, perhaps the other manufacturers will have flooded the marked with Model S clones by then...

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    • Vulpine Vulpine on Jul 01, 2014

      @BklynPete Ok, assuming that by Condo you meant "Privately-owned apartment", i.e. "real" property, then I find it difficult to believe that said 'friend' doesn't have reserved parking spaces in the garage where a charging unit may be mounted. The complaint comes across more as reaching for an excuse rather than a vailid argument. Such a thing isn't even impossible in my townhouse (which is owned, not leased) despite the fact that I have an HOA that tries to restrict any 'visible' changes to the neighborhood and its architecture where all parking is outdoors in off-street pads. A little imagination and a charging station can be 'buried' either in the front landscaping or even underneath the pavement itself between my two parking slots. You see, rather than looking for excuses to avoid a new technology, I look for ways to make it more accessible. Such a charging station would appreciate the townhouse's value as it would be pre-equipped for the next buyer who may own or want an EV.