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by Tom Wentworth
In a blog post yesterday, Elon Musk of Tesla announced that he will not pursue patent lawsuits against anyone who "in good faith, wants to use our technology." The lobby in Tesla's Palo Alto headquarters used to showcase their patent portfolio; now they are gone. Tesla decided to open source its vast patent portfolio. But why would Tesla give away the hundreds of patents which have allowed them to become the most innovative
auto manufacturer energy company technology company in the world?
Musk is our modern day Tony Stark, blending a brilliant mind with just the right amount of crazy. At Tesla, he gave us cars that don't require gas and will soon drive themselves. At SpaceX he gave us reusable rockets. And someday, he'll give us the hyper-loop. Now he's given perhaps his greatest gift to society: the inspiration to work together to solve important problems for the betterment of the planet. According to Musk, "Our true competition is not the small trickle of non-Tesla electric cars being produced, but rather the enormous flood of gasoline cars pouring out of the world’s factories every day."
There are so many clear parallels to the world of enterprise software. Just as the automotive industry remains dominated by legacy thinking dating back to the advent of the combustion engine, enterprise software remains dominated by proprietary, closed technology stacks. By open sourcing Tesla patents, Musk believes that “the world would all benefit from a common, rapidly-evolving technology platform.”
A crazy genius I know had a similar dream, to free the world from the proprietary closed enterprise systems in favor of openness and innovation. He created Drupal, and made it open source. And now Drupal is the largest, most active open source community in the world.
Just as Tesla fights the establishment who have a vested interest in fighting innovation, Drupal fights against the same tired anti-open source arguments: "It doesn't scale! It isn't secure! But who will support it!" My competitors at Acquia—companies like Adobe and Sitecore—are in the fight of their lives against open source, because in the end, innovation always wins. Open source platforms like Drupal are winning against proprietary enterprise software alternatives because companies now clearly understand and value the importance of innovation.
Tesla's move to open source its patent portfolio was a huge bet on innovation, not just for Tesla, but for the future of our society. Someday proprietary enterprise software companies will come to the same realization that open source and innovation win, and unless they embrace openness, their products are headed the way of the combustion engine.