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Tesla Releases Electric Car Patents To the Public

timothy posted about 5 months ago | from the your-good-news-of-the-day dept.

Patents 211

mknewman (557587) writes with a welcome followup to the broad hints that Tesla might release some of its patents for others to use patents that it has amassed. Now, Elon Musk writes on the company's 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. 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.

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Trust but verify (4, Insightful)

cunniff (264218) | about 5 months ago | (#47223609)

If I were personally going to use one of Tesla's patents in my business, I'd want a signed zero-cost GPL-like license agreement with Tesla. For example, Musk's good will is nice, but what if someone else were to acquire Tesla's IP?

Re:Trust but verify (1)

Lumpio- (986581) | about 5 months ago | (#47223639)

Then you'd need a clause in the contract that binds Tesla to come up with a way to hold up their promise even in the case that they decide to sell.

Re:Trust but verify (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47224005)

Then you'd need a clause in the contract that binds Tesla to come up with a way to hold up their promise even in the case that they decide to sell.

Maybe I'm naive, but doesn't a way already exist? I mean, why would a company be able to purchase patents without the accompanying contracts that other companies have regarding use of those patents? If that were the case, Tesla could just sell the patents to a shell corporation and sue all the companies they'd previously signed contracts with.

Re:Trust but verify (3, Interesting)

thaylin (555395) | about 5 months ago | (#47223651)

Well the blog post is really all they need now. he is the CEO of the company, which means what he writes there is what it is. If they sue now there will be some massive fees for them..

The question I would have though is what it means to be in good faith...

Re:Trust but verify (4, Interesting)

TWX (665546) | about 5 months ago | (#47223839)

The question I would have though is what it means to be in good faith...

Bingo.

If I had any real forward momentum with an electric car design that might use something patented by Tesla, I'd approach them to get a formal agreement, even if it's just a rubber-stamp formality. The tens of thousands of dollars in lawyer costs to ensure that millions of dollars in lawsuits are avoided would be worthwhile.

It is worthy to note that automakers have released patents before. Volvo invented the three-point seatbelt that has become the ubiquitous seatbelt today, and they felt that it was so important that they released their patent early specifically so that other automakers could make their cars safer.

I kind of also expect that Tesla has something new, so these patents aren't all that important to protect their business, as their new thing will probably blow the doors off of the current stuff.

Re:Trust but verify (3)

BasilBrush (643681) | about 5 months ago | (#47224029)

I kind of also expect that Tesla has something new, so these patents aren't all that important to protect their business, as their new thing will probably blow the doors off of the current stuff.

It rather reads as a new policy with regard to all patents, existing and future. So your expectation doesn't seem likely.

Re:Trust but verify (3)

tooslickvan (1061814) | about 5 months ago | (#47224121)

A clearer statement than "we took our plaques off our wall" is needed, but assuming there is a clear statement from Tesla that they will only use these patents defensively, anyone who takes them at their word should be safe.

Telsa should have the CEO publicly post such a statement where Tesla will not initiate patent lawsuits against anyone who, in good faith, wants to use their technology. This will be quickly picked up by tech blogs and linked to the statement.

Re:Trust but verify (2)

gstoddart (321705) | about 5 months ago | (#47223901)

Well the blog post is really all they need now. he is the CEO of the company, which means what he writes there is what it is.

No, the problem happens if someone comes in and buys Tesla out from under him.

The ownership of those patents is now the people who own Tesla. They may see things differently.

So, Musk can say all this all he wants, and it amounts to "while I'm CEO". But unless there is something which is legally binding, someone else could change their mind.

This sounds like a nice promise, and a well intentioned one, but in reality, I'm not sure it's legally binding against Tesla, or anybody in the future who comes to own these patents.

So would you base your business on using patents which you have been told, in a non-binding way, you may use? Or would you have to realize that things could change if he's ousted from the board, dies, or the company is sold?

I should think somewhere there are lawyers going "I don't think that really covers us enough".

Re:Trust but verify (3, Insightful)

thaylin (555395) | about 5 months ago | (#47223951)

Well that is one of the things that SCO failed on in court so I am fairly certain you are incorrect. This gives the other company an affirmative defense.

Re:Trust but verify (1)

gstoddart (321705) | about 5 months ago | (#47223971)

Well that is one of the things that SCO failed on in court so I am fairly certain you are incorrect.

I certainly hope so, but the tinfoil hat certainly skews my perceptions a little. ;-)

Re:Trust but verify (1)

riverat1 (1048260) | about 5 months ago | (#47224223)

Maybe you need to cut some eye holes in it. ;-)

Re:Trust but verify (3, Informative)

gstoddart (321705) | about 5 months ago | (#47224269)

But then they will be able to directly read my thoughts from my eyes, man, and their retinal scanners will be able to track my movements.

Don't you know anything? ;-)

Re:Trust but verify (1)

Hentai (165906) | about 5 months ago | (#47224417)

You know, I watched my wife work all day gettin' thirty tinfoil sheets together for you ungrateful sons of bitches, and all I hear is criticize, criticize, criticize!

Re:Trust but verify (3, Insightful)

Bengie (1121981) | about 5 months ago | (#47224769)

A change in ownership doesn't change the fact that the "company" stated they won't sue over certain patents. I can't invite you over, then bet you with a baseball bat, claiming self defense against a trespasser.

Re:Trust but verify (1)

Charliemopps (1157495) | about 5 months ago | (#47224365)

Well the blog post is really all they need now. he is the CEO of the company, which means what he writes there is what it is. If they sue now there will be some massive fees for them..

The question I would have though is what it means to be in good faith...

And when your company builds its entire product line on Tesla patents... it'll be 5 to 10 years until you have a product. Tesla cars end up causing cancer or something so they go bankrupt and Apple buys up their patents as part of their bankruptcy... You wont even have to wait for the Apple lawsuit. Your stock will tank and you'll be out of business long before that.

Re:Trust but verify (2)

jeffmeden (135043) | about 5 months ago | (#47223655)

If I were personally going to use one of Tesla's patents in my business, I'd want a signed zero-cost GPL-like license agreement with Tesla. For example, Musk's good will is nice, but what if someone else were to acquire Tesla's IP?

To that end, "good faith" doesn't have a history in patent law; he could take anyone who was using the patents to seriously compete or encroach on Tesla's existing market share as lacking it, and there would be no recourse.

Re:Trust but verify (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47224115)

Not at all. The term 'good faith' has a *lot* of history in business and contract law.

Tesla has just publicly released a verbal contract granting a public license to use the patents in question. Suing someone over the use of such *without* evidence of bad faith would be an act of bad faith on Tesla's part.

Re:Trust but verify (2)

TheCarp (96830) | about 5 months ago | (#47224351)

IANAL but this was always how I understood contracts and verbal ones. A verbal agreement is still an agreement and the reason they are generally not considered "much good" is that they are, in the general case, notoriously hard to prove exist and to prove the exact terms of.... but that doesn't make them any less real in cases where those issues are not the case.

Here we have public and fairly explicit statements from an officer of the company who is authorized to speak to the public. I think that unless they can prove some bad faith, they are going to have a hard time weaseling out of those statements.

And forget the courts, can you imagine the PR nightmare of suing someone for doing something you publicly issued a permission to do?

Re:Trust but verify (5, Informative)

swillden (191260) | about 5 months ago | (#47223861)

If I were personally going to use one of Tesla's patents in my business, I'd want a signed zero-cost GPL-like license agreement with Tesla. For example, Musk's good will is nice, but what if someone else were to acquire Tesla's IP?

It wouldn't matter, I don't think. A clearer statement than "we took our plaques off our wall" is needed, but assuming there is a clear statement from Tesla that they will only use these patents defensively, anyone who takes them at their word should be safe.

Why? There's a legal concept called "promissory estoppel". In a nutshell, it means that if I make you a promise and you, in good faith, depend upon that promise and build your business on it, and I knew or should have known that you were going to do so, then I can't later change my mind, withdraw my promise and sue you for doing what I said you could do.

Re:Trust but verify (0, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47224295)

It wouldn't matter, but not in the way you meant. The reason it doesn't matter is that in present day America, the side with the most money always wins legal battles. So it's pointless to speculate and debate the actual legal technicalities, because the highest paid lawyers are better at it than you.

Re:Trust but verify (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47224313)

Tell that to all the people who based their software off of Java, who used the API in good faith.

Re:Trust but verify (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47224319)

Hmmm. That didn't stop Rambus.

Re:Trust but verify (4, Interesting)

SlaveToTheGrind (546262) | about 5 months ago | (#47224651)

You're fully correct about the legal doctrine, but in reality there's a non-zero chance that it will cost you a very large number of dollars to defend a patent lawsuit filed by a future assignee who convinces the judge that even the "clearer statement" (1) wasn't so clear and/or (2) didn't apply to your particular use.

There's actually a simple way that Tesla could make this binding -- formally disclaim the rest of the term of the patents at the Patent Office [uspto.gov] .

37 C.F.R. 1.321 Statutory disclaimers, including terminal disclaimers.
(a) A patentee owning the whole or any sectional interest in a patent may disclaim any complete claim or claims in a patent. In like manner any patentee may disclaim or dedicate to the public the entire term, or any terminal part of the term, of the patent granted. Such disclaimer is binding upon the grantee and its successors or assigns. A notice of the disclaimer is published in the Official Gazette and attached to the printed copies of the specification.

It will be interesting to see if they actually go that far.

Re:Trust but verify (4, Insightful)

MightyYar (622222) | about 5 months ago | (#47224771)

That would defeat their ability to use the patents defensively. For example, Toyota coming after them for violating some Prius patent.

Re:Trust but verify (1)

SlaveToTheGrind (546262) | about 5 months ago | (#47224839)

True enough, but if they're going to keep the patents in force then in my opinion this amounts to little more than a publicity stunt. If and when I can get from them on demand a fully-paid-up license to their entire portfolio for $1 so I have actual, legal, freedom to operate, I'll take this more seriously.

Re:Trust but verify (3, Insightful)

swillden (191260) | about 5 months ago | (#47224867)

There is a middle ground. They could issue a zero-cost, binding, globally-applicable patent license with an exception that withdraws the license from anyone who sues them. This is actually pretty common, and I think it would be a much better choice than placing the patents in the public domain.

I expect something like that will be forthcoming. So far all we have is a blog post; I imagine the more substantive version from the legal department is in progress.

Verify (1)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47223935)

That's the definition of "Don't trust".

Re:Trust but verify (1)

nine-times (778537) | about 5 months ago | (#47223967)

For example, Musk's good will is nice, but what if someone else were to acquire Tesla's IP?

IANAL, but I believe that if you have a license to use intellectual property, and the owner of the IP is acquired, the license would still be valid. For example, if you hold the copyright to a song and I pay you $10k to license that song in a movie, and then you sold the copyright to that song, the new owner can't turn around sue me for using the song in my movie. I believe the same thing holds for patents.

So the question is, can Tesla's promise not to sue be construed as a "license". I believe that if it's not a license and he's just saying, "I probably won't sue," then he could legally change his mind even if he didn't sell the company.

Re:Trust but verify (2)

vux984 (928602) | about 5 months ago | (#47224117)

For example, if you hold the copyright to a song and I pay you $10k to license that song in a movie, and then you sold the copyright to that song, the new owner can't turn around sue me for using the song in my movie.

All true. However, you might not be able to continue to sell copies of that movie.

It recently happened on GoG and Steam just recently for example; they each had a licenses to sell Fallout; Bethesda got rights to all the Fallout IP from Interplay, and Steam and GoG had to remove the games from the catalog; at least until they get a new licensing deal from Bethesda (which may or may not happen).

You'll also see it with movies etc where it gets REALLY stupid, where the company that holds the rights to the movie can't make a DVD release because they only have the rights to soundtrack/music for VHS. (Which is one reason you'll sometimes see a DVD release with an altered soundtrack)

Re:Trust but verify (1)

nine-times (778537) | about 5 months ago | (#47224461)

All true. However, you might not be able to continue to sell copies of that movie.

It recently happened on GoG and Steam just recently for example; they each had a licenses to sell Fallout; Bethesda got rights to all the Fallout IP from Interplay, and Steam and GoG had to remove the games from the catalog; at least until they get a new licensing deal from Bethesda (which may or may not happen).

You're confusing different things. GOG and Steam are stores. If I make a movie, and then I sell the copyright to that movie, the new copyright holder can pull copies of that movie from store shelves, depending on the distribution deals they have with the stores that carry it. However, if I've sold a license to HBO to show that movie for the next year, the new copyright holder can't simply pull the movie from HBO.

You'll also see it with movies etc where it gets REALLY stupid, where the company that holds the rights to the movie can't make a DVD release because they only have the rights to soundtrack/music for VHS. (Which is one reason you'll sometimes see a DVD release with an altered soundtrack)

But that's not because the company that holds the rights to the music was allowed to revoke the license to have that music in the show. It's because the original license didn't cover DVD distribution, so the show's producer would need to acquire an additional license for that.

Bottom line: AFAIK, licensing isn't invalidated by sale of the IP.

Re:Trust but verify (1)

steelfood (895457) | about 5 months ago | (#47224049)

To avoid lawsuits, big companies will probably still want a contract signed before using the patented technology on purpose. The smaller players won't be able to ask for something signed, but they also will be less likely to worry about lawsuits, and they are sufficiently covered by Musk's public official blog post.

No good deed will go unpunished though. Saying "no strings attached" is practically asking for people to look for the strings, and then make imaginary ones up when they can't be found.

Re:Trust but verify (-1, Offtopic)

Monkey-Man2000 (603495) | about 5 months ago | (#47224061)

test1

Re:Trust but verify (1)

Monkey-Man2000 (603495) | about 5 months ago | (#47224131)

This is a very good point and excellent support for your point is the experience Google had with Sun Microsystems and now Oracle regarding the Android/Java technology. Last I heard Oracle had won the argument that an API is copyrightable in front of a judge and that Google owes them money; it must be in appeal because I didn't recall hearing that Google actually paid out yet. A key difference, of course, is that this is patents and Oracle was mostly arguing copyright I believe. And I believe Google's main defense was that the last CEO at Sun supported their usage (notwithstanding the fact that an API should NOT be copyrightable to begin with!).

does Elon Musk's infamy know no bounds?!!! (5, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47223625)

This guy really is the most devious and evil of all of Ian Flemming's villains.

what about the battery patents or chargers? (0, Flamebait)

alen (225700) | about 5 months ago | (#47223629)

did they release those as well? if not then they are looking to make the cars a commodity and extort money from people selling batteries and electricity along the roads

Re:what about the battery patents or chargers? (3, Interesting)

Nygmus (3525773) | about 5 months ago | (#47223707)

What's more likely is, they're wanting to expand the number of EVs on the road, because with the new "gigafactory' they're building they're poised to be one of the world's biggest suppliers of EV-grade lithium batteries. If Tesla never makes another car but every car on the road uses Tesla batteries for power storage, they still come out ahead.

Re:what about the battery patents or chargers? (1)

savuporo (658486) | about 5 months ago | (#47223927)

Most likely is that they want a few of their ideas to become standard - like Supercharger infrastructure. If they manage to get even one major OEM to cooperate and add supercharger receptables, that is a massive win for Tesla.

Re:what about the battery patents or chargers? (1)

horza (87255) | about 5 months ago | (#47223711)

The blog clearly says all. Though I'm not sure how you would propose to make an electric car a commodity without a way to power it or to supply energy to it.

Phillip.

Re:what about the battery patents or chargers? (1)

alen (225700) | about 5 months ago | (#47223765)

the car part will be open source or freely licensed patents or whatever
but since those cover the charging and the specs for the charger there is a good chance it will require tesla brand batteries and charging stations. if the patents for those weren't released then we just figured out how they will make their money

Re:what about the battery patents or chargers? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47223731)

Batteries are nothing but a commodity. Especially if Tesla wants to sell electric cars to normal people.

Re:what about the battery patents or chargers? (2)

compro01 (777531) | about 5 months ago | (#47223737)

He says "Our technology" and "All our patent", so presumably they're meaning every single one of the 169 patents they currently hold [uspto.gov] , except maybe the 8 design patents.

Re:what about the battery patents or chargers? (2, Insightful)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47223747)

Extort? A company making money is not "extortion".

Re:what about the battery patents or chargers? (-1)

alen (225700) | about 5 months ago | (#47223775)

anyone charging more money than what i'm willing to pay is extortion

Re:what about the battery patents or chargers? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47224039)

Ah, you must be an American *ducks*

Re:what about the battery patents or chargers? (2)

bluefoxlucid (723572) | about 5 months ago | (#47224069)

No. Extortion is the use of coercion to make you pay.

Let's say you need to get to a job interview, and your car runs out of fuel. You have AAA, and can call for a tow or fuel, enough to get to the next gas station 5 miles away, free; it'll take over an hour, and you don't have time. If the gas station right across the street charges $3.50/gal, but the owner sees you require fuel RIGHT NOW for the security of your livelihood and so jacks up the price, that's extortion: he sees your situation allows him to coerce you into paying above his normal fare, so demands additional money using that leverage.

If the price is raised generically--if the gas station owner raises his fixed price to $15/gal because he's the only station within reasonable distance and so expects people will pay it to avoid a long detour--that's price gouging. Any situation where a good is unreasonably priced in its general sale is price gouging.

screw those guys (2)

Thud457 (234763) | about 5 months ago | (#47223863)

Nobody wants to go to North Dakota or Mississippi anyway. [teslamotors.com]
Actually, the current map doesn't cover a good part of the deep South or most of northern Tea-bag-anistan. But it does cover the important (sic) parts of Texas, WTF.

Re:screw those guys (2)

SydShamino (547793) | about 5 months ago | (#47224075)

I don't understand their lack of coverage on the I-35 corridor, the primary north-south corridor through the center of the country. Even when they add the Oklahoma City station later this year, and the Augusta, Kansas station in 2015, the runs from Fort Worth to Oklahoma City and from Topeka to Des Moines seem huge.

Ok, the internet says those distances are 196 miles and 256 miles, respectively. Already that only works in the 85 kWh version, and then only barely.

That just seems strange to me. In my anecdotal experience, driving north and south is far more likely than east and west; people* take cars to go up and down the coasts or the central corridor, but are more likely to fly from coast to coast or center to coast.

* At least the type of people that can afford a Tesla.

Re:what about the battery patents or chargers? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47224243)

Here let me fix that for you:

I don't like Teslas, and perhaps have an ideological issue with electric cars in general, so if they do something good I will try to find any way to make it seem evil cause I am a classic internet troll

Open Source RULES Innovation Advances Civilization (3, Insightful)

ramorim (1257654) | about 5 months ago | (#47223703)

This is called the real source of innovation: open source, open knowledge. Comparatively speaking: If the C programming language were closed source, companies like Apple would never be what it is today. Or even the actual jump in technology our society leaped. Maybe, with this action, Tesla can not only open a path for innovation, standardization, but most important (for them) they will be able to grow faster and faster technologically and in the market.

Wow (5, Funny)

meta-monkey (321000) | about 5 months ago | (#47223729)

Now, I don't wanna do anything gay or nothin', but I kinda wanna make love to this man.

Wow (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47223933)

Today, I found a little piece of my completely lost faith in humanity

Re:Wow (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47224821)

Book yourself in for a sex-change operation, then it won't be gay. ;)

Thanks (5, Insightful)

Prien715 (251944) | about 5 months ago | (#47223759)

Thank you Elon Musk.

If only every other CEO had the same courage. Also, if he's willing to do this for SpaceX, I have no problems with a private company doign space exporation.

Re:Thanks (1)

rogoshen1 (2922505) | about 5 months ago | (#47223787)

If only I had mod points :(

Re:Thanks (0, Funny)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47224537)

Please shut up.

Re:Thanks (1)

Ravaldy (2621787) | about 5 months ago | (#47223985)

I don't think it has anything to do with courage. Businesses have to be able to leverage the patent to repay R&D cost. I know not all patents fall under this category but many do.

Tesla is niche enough that they can afford to do it because it won't prevent them from recovering their R&D cost. But not all products or business models allow for easy return on R&D investments.

Re: Thanks (3, Insightful)

Guspaz (556486) | about 5 months ago | (#47224017)

SpaceX doesn't have any patents to give away (or at least not many). This was intentional, because the entities most likely to violate the patents wouldn't be bound by them (certain countries). Getting a patent requires publishing the details, and all that does for a country that ignores patents is make it easier to copy.

Re:Thanks (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47224193)

Pretty certain he's stated that SpaceX doesn't pursue patents at all. He believes the Chinese would use them as blueprints for competition down the road.

Re:Thanks (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47224437)

Until the constant hunger for more profits for the share holders causes them to cut corners and people die.
Sorry space is expensive for a reason with our level of tech, you want cheap and safe travel? Lobby your congress critter with as much cash as you have on hand to mandate NASA spending the next decade building the infrastructure from here to the moon.

Re:Thanks (5, Insightful)

cbhacking (979169) | about 5 months ago | (#47224469)

Tesla and SpaceX are currently in very, very different markets. Tesla is selling luxury consumer products, and trying to get the economies of scale + technical innovation to start selling non-luxury consumer products, where the real market is. They are also competing against an entrenched, widely-deployed technology that has been in widespread use for longer than 99.9% of the human race has been alive. They need their product to become more than a niche, and they need to have viable competition if for no other reason than for the legitimacy that competition brings.

SpaceX sells cheap, high-tech rocket launches, where cheap means something like what a "cheap" computer in the 50s would mean: governments and really big organizations can afford to buy them, and nobody else is even going to consider it. In a way, they're the opposite of Tesla: rather than being a luxury brand trying to get cheaper, they're aiming to be the cheap alternative to the existing competition.

Unlike Tesla, SpaceX is not publicly traded and does not file for patents. Patents provide no meaningful protection against the Chinese or Russian governments, which are the organizations SpaceX is most interested in competing with. SpaceX patenting their stuff would allow those entities to undercut SpaceX for the small number of customers that even exist in such a space, because they could use the disclosed technology without needing to recoup R&D investments or pay California salaries and regulatory costs.

The problem is that SpaceX is the only organization in the world currently demonstrating great success in disrupting the entrenched space launch market, and they need to (and do) re-invest their profits from those launches into producing still-better (cheaper) launchers if the want to achieve their stated goals of making space access cheap enough that actual human beings can afford it. They can't afford to be undercut, because there just aren't enough customers right now for them to afford to do other than fight for every purchase they can get. Tesla can totally afford to be undercut; it will help grow their market (electric car owners) and meanwhile there will always be people who will buy their cars just because the market is big enough.

A share-alike clause? (5, Interesting)

Bradmont (513167) | about 5 months ago | (#47223767)

It would be amazing if he added a share-alike clause to licensing these patents. That is to say, make it free to use any of Tesla's patents, under the condition that you provide the same free access, under the same conditions, to any technology your company develops as a derivitave.

Re:A share-alike clause? (1)

Immerman (2627577) | about 5 months ago | (#47224013)

I'm not sure that would be aligned with his stated goals - to encourage the production of electric vehicles. Auto companies aren't exactly bastions of open source, and look how long it took tech companies to start getting on board with share-alike licenses. Musk strikes me as the sort who dreams big - and whether his goal is to combat climate change or drum up business for his automotive battery gigafactory, a BSD-style license is likely more productive.

That said, I don't believe using the patents "in good faith" is exactly a well-defined legal concept, so he no doubt has considerable wiggle room to interpret that as a share-alike license if anyone gets too exploitative of his generosity, and that's assuming his public declaration is even considered legally binding in the first place.

Re:A share-alike clause? (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47224559)

AGPL seeks to do this very thing. Derivative works vary too much in nature for this general rule to apply to products that have yet to be created. In some ways this could stifle innovation because monetary gain and trade secrets are the primary life blood of the product. Put simply, many things can benefit from BSD-Style or GPL licenses but not all services/products are sustainable under those same restrictions.

Briliant move (3, Interesting)

Trachman (3499895) | about 5 months ago | (#47223793)

The easy way for Tesla to reaffirm their commitment to open source and innovation is to, specifically, allow those patents in question lapse by not to paying renewal fee. So how exactly shareholders will react? Old fashioned approach is that more competition is not good for the entity. However, Tesla realizes that freedom and liberty to create is so much more powerful, that additional entrants to the electric car industry will expand the infrastructure required to charge the cars, and, eventually, Tesla will win not by competing with others but by working and partnering with others. Remover restrictions, think outside the box and let others do the same, share success and support others and very soon you will see that everyone around you, including yourself, are incredibly successful and prosperous.

What about the shareholders? (3, Interesting)

CRCulver (715279) | about 5 months ago | (#47223795)

Tesla is a publicly-owned company. Couldn't the shareholders bring a suit against the company's directors for basically giving asssets away for free? The claim "I did it to create an ecosystem that might bring profit in the future" might not go over in court.

Re:What about the shareholders? (-1, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47223979)

Shareholders are fucking scum, and should never be treated as anything but that.

I mean, remember back to the fuckhole who wanted Apple not to use renewable energy.

Re:What about the shareholders? (0, Troll)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47224255)

Your rant pegs you as a communist, that is to say, as someone who hates the act of job creation (and loves slavery). So let's just clarify: Musk is a shareholder. Presumably such a momentous decision was made in consultation with the board of directors, who are elected by the shareholders.

The millions of stock option recipients throughout Silicon Valley history are all essentially shareholders. That is to say, the prospect of being a shareholder is what attracts talented people to work for start-up businesses, and thereby create cool and interesting things that the people find useful.

Have a look at Venezuela nowadays. Rumor is, even if someone has currency, it's increasingly difficult to purchase basic staples. Communist tyrants like Chavez and Maduro always hurt everybody, and benefit only themselves.

Re:What about the shareholders? (2)

bluefoxlucid (723572) | about 5 months ago | (#47224087)

The directors are the shareholders. Common stock owners are irrelevant.

Re:What about the shareholders? (2)

jratcliffe (208809) | about 5 months ago | (#47224109)

You could, but it would be a VERY tough suit to win. Boards get a lot of discretion under the business judgment rule.

Re:What about the shareholders? (1)

markkezner (1209776) | about 5 months ago | (#47224133)

If such were the case, Google surely would have been sued to the brink by its shareholders by now.

Re:What about the shareholders? (2)

ccb621 (936868) | about 5 months ago | (#47224383)

Sergey, Larry, and Eric own most of the voting shares of Google. Most of the shares floating on the market either have few votes or none at all.

Re:What about the shareholders? (2)

Salgat (1098063) | about 5 months ago | (#47224135)

It'd be trivial to argue that doing this would promote more adoption of electric cars, easing Tesla's entry into the automobile market.

Re:What about the shareholders? (1)

AlanObject (3603453) | about 5 months ago | (#47224275)

The plaintiffs would have to demonstrate how the company lost value by them doing that. If Tesla somehow lost significant value and a lawsuit against management were initiated for some other reason, this issue might be appended to the lawsuit to try to build the case for mismanagement. The defense would counter that since the shareholders did not vote as a majority to replace the BoD with one that would appoint officers (not Musk) that would not do such things, the BoD was simply following the will of the majority of the shareholders in their own best judgement. There used to be a lot of law firms around that would try it, but while the company's stock value is up there simply is no way to claim damages.

What about the shareholders? (4, Informative)

ccb621 (936868) | about 5 months ago | (#47224375)

Elon Musk owns about 23% of Tesla stock (http://business.time.com/2014/02/26/elon-musk-1-1-billion-tesla-tuesday/) and the board of directors probably owns another significant stake. The rest of the shareholders, myself included, don't have much of a voice. Honestly, I am fine with this. I don't know anything about running a car company or building electric vehicles, and I doubt the company leadership would do anything to lose their own money. Tesla is one of the few companies I trust because their motives have always seemed altruistic (aside from the obvious capitalistic qualities of any corporation).

Re:What about the shareholders? (2)

organgtool (966989) | about 5 months ago | (#47224451)

As a shareholder, I fully welcome this move. This shows that Tesla is so confident that they will continue to dominate the electric car industry that they don't even have to stop others from trying. That kind of confidence goes a long way to securing business deals with companies who might otherwise hesitate to jump into bed with a company that is still relatively new in a market that is only just starting to emerge.

A very interesting thing to do - however. (1)

queazocotal (915608) | about 5 months ago | (#47223825)

Don't patents have a 'must defend' clause in them for them to continue to be valid?
By doing this, instead of (say) licencing them at a dollar per, haven't they invalidated their own patents and made them able to be used
by anyone - including those not in good faith?

Re:A very interesting thing to do - however. (2)

gQuigs (913879) | about 5 months ago | (#47223847)

I believe you are thinking of Trademarks.

Re:A very interesting thing to do - however. (2)

mr_mischief (456295) | about 5 months ago | (#47223859)

They absolutely do not. Trademarks do.

Re:A very interesting thing to do - however. (1)

aitikin (909209) | about 5 months ago | (#47223879)

You're thinking trademark. Pretty sure patents do not have a "must defend" clause. In trademark, it will be invalidated if you don't stay on it and pursue anyone misusing it (Kleenex will come down on any magazine/newspaper they see that doesn't put after their trademark because if they don't, they can lose that trademark).

Re:A very interesting thing to do - however. (1)

Roujo (2577771) | about 5 months ago | (#47223895)

Don't patents have a 'must defend' clause in them for them to continue to be valid?

IANAL, but as far as I know that's not a requirement. You can patent stuff you invent without ever suing anyone afterwards, or you can offer free licenses, or whatever. Trademarks do have such a clause (or something similar), however.

What does "In Good Faith" mean? (2)

bobbied (2522392) | about 5 months ago | (#47223873)

This press release is all fine and good, but what does the qualifier "In Good Faith" mean?

Until Tesla provides a license with the legal verbiage that describes "In Good Faith" I'm not so ready to start the celebrations. Without a license to use the patent, you are stupid to knowingly infringe on it, regardless of what some CEO says in a press release.

Re:What does "In Good Faith" mean? (4, Informative)

bluefoxlucid (723572) | about 5 months ago | (#47224149)

Good faith is a legal concept often addressed in court. Some opposite concepts are bad faith and negligence. All of these center around the beliefs of a rational person: if a rational person with appropriate qualifications (i.e. your engineers did X, would an engineer know the implications of X?) would understand the consequences of an action, then you are held to that understanding. If you act such that you should know the outcome is harmful and contrary to what would be considered good faith, you are acting in bad faith.

An example of bad faith would be production of sub-quality components with a staff of engineers who understand the limits of such components. If you built chargers with 14ga wire to carry 20A currant, using aluminum core wire with extremely thin electroplating, those chargers would degrade quickly. If you are doing so and then marketing heavily in areas trafficked heavily by Tesla cars, we can reasonably assume you are committing sabotage: these chargers will quickly degrade, causing charging issues and damaging Tesla's image. If you release your own charger architecture of better quality, the evidence reinforces this: Why would you use 12ga full copper wire for 20A chargers of your design, but 14ga aluminum core for 20A of Tesla's design?

Evidence of ulterior motives and willful negligence constitute bad faith.

"In good faith" (0)

synthesizerpatel (1210598) | about 5 months ago | (#47223905)

At the point where you actually would be considered competition for Tesla is the point at which you would not be acting in good faith I assume?

Yeah.. Nice PR move, but effectively pointless.

This really does work to their advantage (2)

adric22 (413850) | about 5 months ago | (#47223925)

Right now they have virtually zero real competition. On the other side, many people are still afraid of electric cars for one reason or another. And by helping the market expand, it will help their own brand succeed too.

Re:This really does work to their advantage (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47224007)

I don't believe I've ever met anybody afraid of electric cars. I have met a good many who have no interest in buying one anytime soon, if ever.

Re:This really does work to their advantage (1, Interesting)

bobbied (2522392) | about 5 months ago | (#47224083)

many people are still afraid of electric cars for one reason or another.

I'm not afraid of them, they just do not suit my daily driving needs and their TCO is still higher than the standard gasoline fueled cars available. It's not about fear, but economics and how impractical they are in practice. I need a car that can reliably go 200 miles at 30 - 70 MPH on a hot day without recharging, carry 4 comfortably and has a TCO that compares to the used Honda Accord I have now. Right now, such electric cars don't exist, or they are hugely expensive.

Is There A List? (4, Interesting)

CanHasDIY (1672858) | about 5 months ago | (#47223997)

Read through the blog post, didn't see a link or listing of the patents that they've 'open-sourced.'

Anybody know where to find them? I'm curious.

Re:Is There A List? (1)

jmkaza (173878) | about 5 months ago | (#47224317)

Tesla Patents [uspto.gov]

Re:Is There A List? (2)

CanHasDIY (1672858) | about 5 months ago | (#47224471)

Hm, would have expected there would be more than 11 of them, considering the number of plaques on that wall... [flickr.com]

FYI, if that link to the picture doesn't work, go read the comments on the Tesla blog post, that's where I found it.

Enjoy watching the Koreans and Chinese eat you (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47224081)

Nothing to stop them now, they don't like to innovate, now they don't have to!

Good Job Tesla - Now how about that GPL source? (1)

Spoke (6112) | about 5 months ago | (#47224141)

This is a great move by Tesla and I hope that more companies follow suit.

Now - how about releasing the source code to owners for GPL software and derivatives you ship in your vehicles?

So far I am not aware of any owners who have been successful in getting access to that code.

Elon Musk: (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47224177)

Sucks way less than most billionaires

GM (1)

BradMajors (995624) | about 5 months ago | (#47224253)

It seems it is possible, for example, for GM to build charging stations using Tesla's patents and then only allow GM cars and prohibit any Tesla cars from using the charging stations.

Re:GM (1)

BasilBrush (643681) | about 5 months ago | (#47224875)

Sure. But that doesn't put Tesla in an worse a position, given that GM don't have any charging infrastructure for Tesla drivers to use now.

Toyota and Honda will pounce. (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47224339)

If these patents are useful (and if Toyota and Honda don't have a Not-invented-here complex), then these technologies will be rapidly integrated into their respective models.

Re:Toyota and Honda will pounce. (1)

Mysticalfruit (533341) | about 5 months ago | (#47224389)

I hope Chevy pounces as well. A Volt with ultra charging technology sounds awesome! Mind you, this isn't the battery technology, this is their charging tech.

And then... (0)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47224379)

Some d-bag will take those patents you just took down and re-register them to his name.

First thought that I had.... (2)

seededfury (699094) | about 5 months ago | (#47224577)

It's a TRAP!!!!

His past... (4, Interesting)

mycroft16 (848585) | about 5 months ago | (#47224627)

It should be noted that Elon Musk has degrees in economics and physics as well as real world experience in the software field (PayPal) as well as engineering and business (SpaceX/Tesla). The man is incredibly intelligent and seems to really understand how things work. I'm willing to bet this decision wasn't made without the board. I'm sure Wall St won't like it and stocks may fall, but this is the correct decision. Musk is doing what many businesses don't seem to understand these days, playing the long game rather than the short game. He may lose a little in the short term, but long term, Tesla comes out a huge winner an brings up a whole lot of other winners with them. There's a good chance he explained all this to the board, and given their about to start battery production, they realized that they stand to have a huge revenue stream if they jump start the electric car industry in this way.

elon musk's spaceship (-1)

Anonymous Coward | about 5 months ago | (#47224755)

It takes 60 days for a seller on ebay to collect their funds from paypal on a purchase. 60 whole days. By this time, the seller who was trying to make ends meat is probably on the street and homeless, unable to collect their funds, while paypal greedily collects interest on that money.

But Elon musk has a spaceship!

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