Tesla Motors offers all its patents for good faith use

In order to boost the electric car industry, Tesla CEO Elon Musk vowed that the company would not sue when other companies use its patents.

Wayne Cunningham Managing Editor / Roadshow
Wayne Cunningham reviews cars and writes about automotive technology for CNET's Roadshow. Prior to the automotive beat, he covered spyware, Web building technologies, and computer hardware. He began covering technology and the Web in 1994 as an editor of The Net magazine.
Wayne Cunningham
2 min read
Tesla Model S charging

Tesla Model S charging
The Tesla Model S uses a propriety charging technology, which company CEO Elon Musk will open up for use by other automakers. Tesla Motors

In a move calculated to boost the electric vehicle industry, Tesla Motors CEO Elon Musk announced the company would make all of its patented technology available for use by competitors. A blog post on Tesla Motors website offers Musk's reasons for the move.

Earlier this week, Musk made comments foreshadowing today's announcement.

In a press conference, Musk made it clear he was offering all of Tesla's patents, which amount to several hundred, up for use. He also vowed to make future patents available, which he claimed would ultimately reach the thousands.

Professing frustration with the current patent system, Musk outlined a sort of gentlemen's agreement between companies, vowing not to sue other automakers for using Tesla's patents, but expecting similar behavior from them.

Tesla's Supercharger technology, which can add 170 miles of range to the Model S in 30 minutes, is one area that Musk talked about for patent sharing. If other automakers built Supercharger capability into their electric cars, Musk said we would be "more than happy to have other manufacturers use Tesla's Supercharger network." However, he would also expect other manufacturers to build Supercharger stations, as Tesla has done.

Other automakers can choose from a variety of standards for fast charging, none of which has taken hold as a universal standard.

Another area where automakers might consider using Tesla's patents is in battery pack construction. Tesla's battery packs use multiple small cells, along with power control software to prevent thermal overruns. Tesla spent many years developing that part of its technology equation.

Boosting the electric car industry would mean more competition for Tesla, but Musk pointed out that electric car production is currently less than 1 percent of total production. He noted that if all cars produced today were electric, it would still take 20 years to replace the current fleet of fossil fuel-burning cars.