Recently Elon Musk announced that Tesla is applying an 'open source' philosophy to their vast patent portfolio (pictured above, now taken down) and that they will not initiate legal action against anyone using them in good faith.
The motivation is simple -- the Tesla mission is to accelerate the shift of humanity's reliance on fossil fuels towards sustainable, renewably powered transportation. They clearly understand that if they tried to hold on tightly to the knowledge and protection of ideas and intellectual property that is enabling this race to gain momentum, they would just be holding the world back from getting to where we all want it to be.
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.
The belief is inspirational -- often as an entrepreneur when pitching to analysts or investors, I have found they become obsessed with what is going to 'protect' you, what is your 'unfair advantage... IP... patents...' etc, etc. Mostly fair points, but mostly bullshit. The 'unfair advantage' 99 percent of successful companies have is their people and passion -- this is something that analysts and investors find really hard to quantify and therefore often dismiss businesses or opportunities because of it. As he says in his statement, Elon's belief in Tesla's people and engineers is what gives him the brazen confidence to make a move like this, which again puts them head and shoulders above the fray of 'business as usual' leaders running most companies.
It's not only becoming increasingly clear that Elon Musk is our generation's Thomas Edison, but also that he is becoming an emerging icon for business' role as a driver of well-being for people and our planet.
In 20 years, nobody is going to remember anything that any of the major automotive manufacturers or CEOs did to get 7 billion people off fossil fuels that pollute the world, hack up our planet and are a root cause of war after war costing billion after billion. They will remember Tesla, Elon Musk and the solitary voice and commitment he has been in the face of all odds to usher in a new age that is slowly but surely on its way.
I know which one I'd rather be.
Photo: Steve Jurvetson