Electric car maker Tesla Motors is handing over the keys to its technology in an unusual effort to encourage other automakers to expand beyond gasoline-burning vehicles. Tesla CEO Elon Musk promised today to give away the company's entire patent portfolio to all comers, as long as they promised not to engage courtroom battles over intellectual property. "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," Musk wrote in a blog post on the company's Web site.
Other automakers using Tesla's technology could potentially share the cost of Tesla's charging stations, for example. And more charging stations could entice skeptical buyers to try electric cars. Tesla currently makes one vehicle—the $70,000 Model S sedan—and is developing two others. But Musk said Tesla can't make a dent in the market by itself, and thinks the patents could be a "modest" help to other companies developing electric cars. “Even if other competitors copy Tesla’s design, Tesla still gets to sell them batteries, and that’s pretty awesome," a Stanford patent law expert tells the LA Times. "Tesla's decision isn't entirely altruistic." The shift to open source is intriguing, but "there are many unanswered questions" about how it will fly in reality, writes Brian Solomon at Forbes. (Read more Tesla stories.)