Elon Musk symbolises the new approach to doing business. The motto is no longer ‘knowledge is power’, but ‘knowledge is for sharing’. According to Musk a patent is ‘nothing more than a ticket for litigation’. However, there is no need to worry because Tesla will not be going to court, he asserts.
Funnily enough Musk soon received support from what initially appeared to be an unexpected source. Toyota also announced that it was going to release the patents on engines which convert hydrogen into electricity and the accompanying filling stations. It was quite incredible. One of the largest car manufacturers in the world is investing hundreds of millions in research only to give it away to the competition.
It sounds too good to be true and unfortunately it is. Behind this façade of noble motives lurks a world of cut-throat competition to find out which technology is going to become the e-mobility standard. Will it be Tesla's or Toyota's (or some other manufacturer)? You can compare it with the video recorders of the Nineteen Eighties, which was a battle won by JVC and its VHS system with Sony's Betamax losing out. Then there is the more recent battle between the iOS (Apple) and Android (Google) operating systems for mobile telephones.
It is doubtful whether Musk will still release his patents if Tesla wins this battle. Despite its fine words, Tesla is still investing a great deal of time and money in protecting its inventions by registering its patents internationally. Musk has also not said that he is going to stop doing so. Moreover, patents for the technology that Tesla is developing and producing in the largest battery factory in the world are being filed with the greatest of care and with help from the very best patent attorneys. Toyota has been clear about this. The patents for the engine technology are only being released temporarily, until 2020.
Elon Musk is, of course, an innovative and creative entrepreneur who deserves to be admired. However, he is also a hard-nosed, smart businessman seeking commercial success. Tesla is supposed to become the Apple of the automotive industry. That is perfectly understandable, but it is also an omen of things to come. It is safe to assume that there is no other company in the world that conducts so many court cases against patent violations as Apple.