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Tesla's Unconventional Patent Strategy
Chris Baxter
Chris Baxter

Tesla, the poster child of innovation, doesn't always play by traditional intellectual property (IP) rules.  While many businesses cling tightly to patents, Tesla famously pledged a vast portion of its patent portfolio to "open-source" use in 2014.  Does this mean patents are irrelevant in the modern tech landscape?  Absolutely not.  Let's unpack Tesla's strategic moves and what they might teach us about leveraging IP.

Patents – The Early Shield

In its formative years, Tesla relied on patents as most young companies do.   They focused on securing core technologies essential to their electric vehicle (EV) development.  This defensive approach was likely aimed at preventing well-established automakers from easily replicating their innovations.

The Gamble of Open-Source

Tesla's 2014 open-source pledge came with a crucial caveat:  they would only defend their patents against those acting in bad faith. This move could be seen as a calculated risk with several potential benefits:

Patents Never Went Away

It's crucial to note that Tesla hasn't stopped innovating or seeking new patents.  Since the pledge, their focus has shifted to areas like:

While the Cybertruck window incident was a temporary setback, Tesla's recent "Armor Glass" patent demonstrates their use of IP to regain market confidence. This signals a nuanced approach, balancing open-source with robust protection for key innovations. The potential applications for bulletproof-level automotive glass could disrupt industry standards producing military grade consumer vehicles in the category of the HumVee.

Lawsuits as a Calculated Move

Despite the open-source pledge, Tesla hasn't shied away from lawsuits entirely.  A closer look reveals they've taken action against companies they believe were misusing their technology or failing to meet the "good faith" standard of their pledge. This shows that open-source doesn't negate the need for selective IP enforcement..

Tesla offers a fascinating case study in IP strategy, but they shouldn't be blindly copied. The patent attorneys at Baxter IP can help you craft an intellectual property strategy that gives you the right balance of protection and strategic advantage.

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About the author
Chris Baxter
Managing Director, Patent & Trade Mark Attorney
Chris Baxter is a Sydney patent and trade mark attorney specialising in software patents, computer patents, medical device patents and engineering patents.

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