Today, the CEO of Tesla, Elon Musk, has decided that patents may not be the best thing for his company, the automobile industry, or the environment.  Instead, he is advocating for open source.  He posted the following on the Tesla Blog:

“Yesterday, there was a wall of Tesla patents in the lobby of our Palo Alto headquarters. That is no longer the case. They have been removed, in the spirit of the open source movement, for the advancement of electric vehicle technology….We believe that applying the open source philosophy to our patents will strengthen rather than diminish Tesla’s position in this regard.”

IP attorneys, including Tesla’s, must be collectively sweating.  I am not, and not simply because I prefer trademark over patent (no way Tesla would ever say their brand name is open source).  Sure IP is immensely valuable to many companies and one of the most important line items when it comes time for valuation and financing.  That said, securing patents and choosing not to enforce them or bypassing patent protection in the interest of open source deserves consideration, especially by companies looking to change the world.  I don’t drive a Tesla, but I want to now, more than ever, and not only because it is a great looking car.  This confirms it is a socially conscious and admirable company, even to an IP attorney like me.


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