Tesla Motors announced Thursday that is making the patents for its technology available to potential competitors, hoping to inspire innovation in the electric car market.
"Tesla will not initiate patent lawsuits against anyone who, in good faith, wants to use our technology," Tesla founder and chief operating officer Elon Musk said in a blog post.
Musk also described a personal shift on the patent issue. "When I started out with my first company, Zip2, I thought patents were a good thing and worked hard to obtain them," he wrote. But, Musk said, he quickly realized "receiving a patent really just meant that you bought a lottery ticket to a lawsuit."
Tesla, he said, felt compelled to patent their technology at first -- fearing that more established auto manufacturers would overwhelm the company. But that wasn't the case, said Musk. "The unfortunate reality is the opposite: electric car programs (or programs for any vehicle that doesn’t burn hydrocarbons) at the major manufacturers are small to non-existent, constituting an average of far less than 1% of their total vehicle sales. "
Musk also cited environmental concerns. "Given that annual new vehicle production is approaching 100 million per year and the global fleet is approximately 2 billion cars, it is impossible for Tesla to build electric cars fast enough to address the carbon crisis," he said.
"Our true competition is not the small trickle of non-Tesla electric cars being produced, but rather the enormous flood of gasoline cars pouring out of the world’s factories every day."
Musk has hinted at wanting to do something different with the car company's patents in the past, and rumors swirled earlier this week that the company would share patents related to its charging technology.
But this isn't the first time Musk, who is also the man behind SpaceX, has open-sourced transportation technology plans. Following a month of hype last year, he released plans for a speculative form transportation system dubbed the "hyperloop," saying anyone was free to pursue its development because he was too busy.
Tesla delivered 22,477 vehicles in 2013 and has said it expects to sell more than 35,000 this year. Musk has sought to boost sales with free recharging stations, leases and guarantees of resale value.
A May 7 letter to shareholders revealed the car maker built 7,