Or, Will Giving Away Patents Fuel More than PR?
This past week I’ve been hearing a lot about Tesla’s announcement that it would adopt an “open source” philosophy and release its electric vehicle patents to the world.
In his announcement by blog, Elon Musk, Tesla’s CEO, says “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.”
(He also mentions the lack of value of patents in today’s world but I’ll save that discussion for a later post!)
While many of the initial articles in the press described the nobility of his actions, later articles explored whether there could be more self-serving benefits at play.
That’s when my colleague, Cheryl, pointed out some similarities between this topic and my recent post Would Maslow Shop at Whole Foods? The post focused on the company culture established by the C-Suite and how it might be classified using Maslow’s Hierarchy as an inspiration.
One article (1) written by Brian Fung at the Washington Post surmised that Tesla had little choice but to take this action since Tesla isn’t able to single-handedly build the infrastructure required to assemble a network of charging stations across the country — essential to the continued growth of the electric vehicle market. It turns out that this is a well-known method for generating value from a patent, what’s referred to as a “License to Create a Standard.” (2)
Another article by the Business Journals (3) pointed out that “Musk said he expects reciprocity from companies that use his patents. He made it clear that he can still decide to block them for using his patents if they don’t respond in kind.”
Finally, all this publicity is certainly worth something.
Like so many people, I often find myself cheering the underdog/disrupter. But are Tesla’s actions completely self-serving or so altruistic that they are self-actualizing and having a worldly purpose?
• Unusual? “Yes”
• Unpredicted? “No”
• Great PR? “Yes”
• Self-actualizing? “Not likely”
What do you think?
- Elon Musks’ Huge Patent Bet Could Doom Tesla Even if its Great for the Rest of Us, Washington Post (June 12, 2014)
Picture credit: Heisenberg Media (Wikimedia)