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Tesla Releases Electric Car Patents To the Public 211

Posted by timothy
from the your-good-news-of-the-day dept.
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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Tesla Releases Electric Car Patents To the Public

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  • Re:Trust but verify (Score:5, Informative)

    by swillden (191260) <shawn-ds@willden.org> on Thursday June 12, 2014 @02:05PM (#47223861) Homepage Journal

    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.

  • by bluefoxlucid (723572) on Thursday June 12, 2014 @02:39PM (#47224149) Journal

    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.

  • Re:Trust but verify (Score:4, Informative)

    by gstoddart (321705) on Thursday June 12, 2014 @02:56PM (#47224269) Homepage

    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? ;-)

  • by ccb621 (936868) on Thursday June 12, 2014 @03:08PM (#47224375) Homepage
    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:Trust but verify (Score:5, Informative)

    by The Snowman (116231) on Thursday June 12, 2014 @08:13PM (#47226241) Homepage

    Of course what Elon Musk is offering here is not a license or a promise, but a vaguely worded statement:

    It's a trap.

    Not really. It is a blanket contract with the public at large. This was a public statement made in a public forum, and it carries with it the full force of contract law. If he tries to sue anyone who acted "in good faith" this statement could be used as evidence against him in a court of law.

  • Re:Trust but verify (Score:2, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward on Thursday June 12, 2014 @10:37PM (#47226927)

    Of course what Elon Musk is offering here is not a license or a promise, but a vaguely worded statement:

    It's a trap.

    Not really. It is a blanket contract with the public at large. This was a public statement made in a public forum, and it carries with it the full force of contract law. If he tries to sue anyone who acted "in good faith" this statement could be used as evidence against him in a court of law.

    No it doesn't. Under contract law, something must be exchanged. One person's promise by itself does NOT constitute a contract, whether written or verbal. A promise is legally worthless, unless some SPECIFIC other person is in a position to be able to claim to have relied detrimentally upon the promise, and be damaged by the same. There is, LEGALLY, no such thing as the "public at large" in contract law. An actual person or enterprise of some kind would need to be specified.

    So... it IS a trap. No one should rely upon this, this is just an invitation to get sued for violating IP rights. Consider this before you start writing back to argue with me these legal points: WHAT DOES "GOOD FAITH" mean? Who determines what is in "good faith?" Does Musk mean he's okay with me using his patents as long as I don't become richer than he is in the process? How can I know he won't sue me for damages if I build a car using his patents, and the results are such that no one buys Tesla's anymore? Think he won't sue when his little electric sports car company goes under because someone figures out how to make a reliable, attractive electric vehicle for a reasonable price?

    Oh, and while we're on the subject, what happens to someone who relies on this 'promise' not to sue, and the patent turns out to breach someone else' patents? Does Musk promise to defend any claims by third parties of infringement, or for damages from the same? Who is liable if you use one of his patents, and a flaw in the design causes some to blow up and kill everyone in the car? Is he accepting unlimited liability for that?

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