Tesla Motors announced today, by way of a blog post from CEO and founder Elon Musk, that it will no longer enforce any of its patents against anyone who wants to create electric cars.

“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,” wrote Musk. “We believe that Tesla, other companies making electric cars, and the world would all benefit from a common, rapidly-evolving technology platform.”

Though the post ranges through Musk’s experience with his earlier companies and focuses on Tesla’s competition with major car manufacturers, he also addresses a concern that might sound familiar to many inventors — that open source is not an option, that patents are a necessity, because of the pressure bigger companies can bear on startups. It’s what led Tesla to apply for and receive their 133 patents, on technology from battery packs to efficient motor rotors to thermal management systems.

Of course, what Musk is doing isn’t technically open source, though he references the movement in his first paragraph. And many small companies have had great success using open source. It can allow them to leverage the community and crowdsource improvements in ways that the big boys never do. It’s a difficult choice for many makers trying to transition from prototype to product, one our speakers wrestled with at MakerCon. If you’re wrestling with that yourself, check out the Free Software Foundation and the Open Source Hardware Association.

Nathan Hurst

Nathan Hurst

Nathan Hurst is an editor at Make. He loves anything having to do with science or bicycling. He tweets as @nathanbhurst.

  • Caleb Kraft

    The more I learn about tesla, the more I like them. I rode in the first model S off the assembly line and really liked it (hated that touch screen, but no one is perfect). If they made something in my price range I’d buy it. Hell, I’d even take a Tesla mini-van!

    • Mike Senese

      The term “mini-van” has never sounded cool until I read that last sentence. Sign me up too.

  • mzungu

    How is it not “technically” open source?

    • Pat Hartl

      It’s not OS because they’re not providing anything. They’re just turning cheek is something infringes on their patent.

      • mzungu

        The Patent describes how the invention can be made… that is the blueprint, it’s something, and you are free to use it. That qualify as OS. Not all OS comes with everything on Day 1.

    • Vincent Tschanz

      Something can be open source and patent encumbered, like the X264 video encoder.

  • Ali H


  • Matt Richardson

    I really admire Tesla for being so innovative, open, and disruptive. Even the way Elon Musk (and other representatives of the company) communicate on behalf of Tesla is so refreshing.

  • Alasdair Allan

    Elon Musk is Tony Stark. Enough said…

  • Shawn Colton

    Electric cars that can do 300 mpg. RESPECT!

  • HoneyBooBoo89

    Elon is a great communicator of revolutionary ideas