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Openwashing With Patent Pledge Nonsense: Tesla Merely Gives Back What it Took Away

Posted in Deception, Free/Libre Software at 9:05 am by Dr. Roy Schestowitz


Summary: Elon Musk from Tesla Motors claims to be ‘sharing’ inventions, but the true motivations are far less benign than it seems on the surface (if not malicious)

WE HAVE been patiently watching “Linux” and “Open Source” feeds filling up with something that is not related to software but claims to be inspired by “Linux” and “Open Source”. It’s some marketing stunt from Tesla, which got the attention of OS (Open Source) Vehicle (another openwashing attempt).

The post says: “Is this a marketing stunt?

“I don’t think so. This can be a genuine effort from one of the visionaries of the silicon valley, one of the most advanced companies on earth, taking finally into account that – by having a value proposition targeted at a customer segment that is pretty small, mostly made by wealthy people most of them living in the US. You can’t really change the world for the better in a short enough amount of time (do you remember we have only less than 6000 days? – look at this).

“As you may also know, Tesla is developing a pretty cool new technology for batteries and it’s probably sure that having other big automotive brands producing cars based on their technology, their batteries will be able to target a bigger market and – at the end – achieve a bigger transformation effect on automotive.”

But why were these patented in the first place? And if these were not patented, would Tesla be able to make a fuss about the so-called ‘giveaway’?

The post goes on: “But if Tesla really wants to scale up its contribution, it must work towards the real adoption of the technological solutions that it is making available, it must switch from a product approach to a platform approach and – in a way that is similar to what we are doing – needs to engage with the community, understand how these technologies can be used and are going to be used and make efforts to ensure that every player in the market will have the same access, an access that is clear in terms of rights, obligations and implications.

“Also, an open source (patents) car will work in the future only if it’s accompanied by an open and distributed manufacturing process, that is able to include multiple stakeholders and be based on a more participative value chain, also embedding the principles of Cradle to Cradle production, eliminating waste and obsolescence.”

We were preparing a long article about this whole marketing exercise that’s basically openwashing the company using the disgraced notion of “opened” patents. IBM, HP and other companies have been using this marketing exercise before. It’s utterly pointless and we have countered it repeatedly. Why are so many journalists bamboozled, including FOSS-friendly ones? Here is one key person from Canonical stating: “When I get home, I’m going to take down a plaque that has proudly hung in my own home office for nearly 10 years now. In 2004, I was named an IBM Master Inventor, recognizing sustained contributions to IBM’s patent portfolio.”

Further down he says: “I’ve never been more excited to see someone back up their own rhetoric against software patents, with such a substantial, palpable, tangible assertion. Kudos, Elon.”

But Elon did not revoke the patents, he just claimed to be sharing them (in a pseudo-geeky way with a famous meme). That’s a very different thing. It’s the same thing that IBM claims to be doing with OIN, among other strategic marketing angles.

Shameless here is the type of free marketing newspapers gave Tesla, characterising a patent hoard (followed by openwashing) as some kind of championship of FOSS. The PR nonsense audaciously uses the term sharing, even though it’s all about profit. They are selling patents as a form of marketing, creating dependence on their technology. Elon Musk, the CEO, has been getting far too much credit and publicity here; it’s rather familiar because all sorts of patent ‘pledges’ by HP and IBM are worse than useless and his is no better. Those two companies lobby for software and try to make it look OK. Likewise, Tesla is patenting all sorts of things and now makes the patents looks legitimate by ‘sharing’ them (whatever that means). It’s the Robin Hood mentality or the doctrine of ‘charity’, where rather than establishing social equality one works vertically, by giving from top to bottom, selectively, upon one’s will and supposed ‘generosity’. As long as there are patents on things like these, lawsuits will continue to harm small companies. “Heavy patent litigation scared off about $22 billion in VC funding over 5 years,” said this one new article, and it is one among many.

The press that Tesla received extends to other countries and resorts a to pathetic cocky attitude that uses metaphors (“Handing Over the Keys”) for openwashing or the notion that Telsa is “contrarian” and “open source” (“the open source movement”).

One decent response to the marketing from Tesla came from Jan Wildeboer, who wrote:

Thank you, Tesla Motors For The Patents, but …

Here’s the thing. Elon Musk doesn’t trust the patent system to protect his inventions. So instead of filing for more, he will simply not file at all and keep his inventions secret. The stuff that already got patented thus is already considered lost by him so it is safe to “open source” them all.

When will the press finally ‘get’ Tesla’s real reasons for doing this? It’s about self interest; Tesla would get sued by shareholders otherwise.

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