SpaceX CEO Elon Musk criticizes patents and says they ‘are for the weak’

Tesla’s legal page says the company will not sue anyone “who, in good faith, wants to use its technology.”
Deniz Yildiran
Elon Musk

Elon Musk, who appeared on CNBC’s “Jay Leno’s Garage”, took the host tour around the SpaceX Starbase facility in Texas. Leno asked if the material they used to build the ships at SpaceX is something they patent, and Musk answered, “Patents are for the weak,” CNBC reported.

He added that they don't "really patent things."

It seems that he is not a big fan of patents as they get in the way of the creativity of others, which he describes as something "generally used as a blocking technique."

“They’re used like landmines in warfare,” he says. “They don’t actually help advance things; they just stop others from following you.”

Elon Musk is indeed against patenting innovations. Back in 2012, he had an interview with Wired and said: "We have essentially no patents in SpaceX. Our primary long-term competition is in China—if we published patents, it would be farcical, because the Chinese would just use them as a recipe book."

He's willing to share the technologies his companies developed.

"Tesla irrevocably pledges that it will not initiate a lawsuit against any party for infringing a Tesla Patent through activity relating to electric vehicles or related equipment for so long as such party is acting in good faith," a statement on Tesla's legal page reads.

Patents are actually a part of Musk's companies

However, that doesn't mean that the world's richest person has never filed patents. According to Insight By Greyb, Musk's portfolio has 18 patents that belong to 9 unique patent families, including vehicle design, autonomous vehicles, location-based search, and such. From 1996 until 1999, he filed at least one patent each year, then one in 2001, four in 2004, one in 2009, and four in 2020.

He also filed patents outside the United States, where he applied for 10 of them. The list includes two in Australia, two in Canada, one in Europe, and one in South Korea.

So what do these patents include?

According to the statistics, vehicle design technology has three patents for the biggest share of the pie. Design patents filed particularly by Musk are related to the artistic design of a car and its charging port. In contrast, Autonomous Vehicle patents have to do with the driverless controls of a vehicle where you can summon your car to the location you want.

Data Exchange patents cover receiving and sending a copy of a document over a client-server network, while the Telephone Network patent is related to web-based phone calls, nothing unfamiliar to most of us. The only difference from services like Skype or Zoom is that users might directly call companies' call centers when they click on a company’s contact information.

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