Talking tech since 2003

So far, the best chance for an alternative to cars that burn fossil fuels is Elon Musk’s line of Tesla Motors. They’re cool looking, they work well, and they’re electric – and they may even be coming to a car dealership near you, whether it’s got the Tesla brand stamped on it or not.

According to an article in USA Today, Musk announced on Tuesday at his company’s annual shareholder meeting that he’s considering doing something “fairly controversial” when it comes to Tesla’s patents.

The article adds that Musk added, “I was hoping other companies would engage in more serious electric-car programs.” Aside from that, there is basically nothing in those statements that reveals what that controversial something might actually be – but that hasn’t stopped analysts from speculating like crazy.

USA Today’s own Chris Woodyard offered this idea as a possibility:

“It sounded like he was hinting that Tesla might consider releasing some of its patents in order to help foster an electric car industry, maybe even giving a hand to competitors.”

Is there any real evidence to suggest that this is what Musk is considering? Not particularly, but it also makes a lot of sense. What else might Musk be considering when it comes to the company’s patents?

Specifically, I don’t think this situation would be as simple as “releasing” patents. Licensing patents – that might actually be up Musk’s sleeve. If he could work out some kind of licensing arrangement with other automakers for Tesla’s electric car patents, we might be seeing “Tesla” cars a lot more often. From there, automakers would make it their business to try and get government cooperation to put electric car charging infrastructure in place to make those automobiles more attractive.

Without question, Tesla would gain if competing automakers lobbied federal and state governments to help create more electric car charging infrastructure throughout the world. But because those companies are dragging their feet about making the switch from fossil fuels to electric, Tesla loses despite offering a desirable product that the competition isn’t providing.

If Musk were to “release,” “license,” “sell,” whatever its patents to other auto companies, there’s a chance that there will be a competition worth winning. Because if Tesla remains the only company out there bothering with electric autos, there’s really no chance for the company to take advantage of a nationwide network of stations it needs to survive.

It’ll be interesting to see what Musk says next with regards to these statements. Will you soon be able to buy an off-brand Tesla from your local GM dealership? Perhaps…

[Source: USA Today]

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