Last week, someone told me that electric motor car company Tesla opened up its patents (or at least, won't send in the lawyers) to people using its technology with a good intention. This message really inspired me, because it speaks of a company that clearly understands why it's doing something - and keeps its actions connected to that why.
Tesla's CEO Elon Musk wrote this in a June blogpost: "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."
According to Musk, Tesla made this gesture to—once again—try to nudge the rest of the automotive market along. Even though Tesla's technology and cars are meeting with enthusiastic demand, the company's barely making a dent in the massive auto market: "electric car programs (or programs for any vehicle that doesn’t burn hydrocarbons) at major manufacturers are small to non-existent, constituting an average of far less than 1% of their total vehicle sales."
In a Businessweek interview, Musk said he'll do what he can to accelerate things. "I don’t think people quite appreciate the gravity of what is going on [with regard to global warming] or just how much inertia the climate has. We really need to do something. It would be shortsighted if we try to hold these things close to our vest.”
Now, we could look at this in lots of ways, and the tendency might be to put this move off as a blatant PR stunt, to attain goodwill from the press and the buying public. And then there's the question of production: shouldn't we at least also talk about the number of cars driving around? Do we really need one billion plus cars? Isn't that something we need to look at? Well, yes. But maybe that will follow automatically as more companies start sharing their knowledge and put their hands together for a future that we can still live in.
And I could spend a lot of time questioning and analyzing Musk's motives, and something in me (the part that still believes in the world as a separate and hostile world:-) wants to find something impure in Tesla's actions. But my heart's telling me that here is someone who can only do what he knows to be right, who lives in the confidence that sharing is the only way out of the current situation and into a new world.
For me, the beauty lies not so much in what Tesla is doing. I don't care for luxury electric vehicles, I don't see their added value, and - again - there the other pressing question of "why so many cars?". But I find great beauty in how the company works to manifest its mission. It's less about the cars they're selling and much more about how we move and collaborate in a connected way. I hope it'll inspire others to join in.
And to keep people to their good intentions, Tesla's not just throwing its secrets out in the streets for anyone looking to make a buck. "Tesla will not initiate patent lawsuits against anyone who, in good faith, wants to use our technology." Rightly so, that message still reads Some Rights Reserved.