The electric car company Tesla Motors has announced it would allow its patents to be used in good faith and not pursue legal action against those who do use them. Tesla's CEO Elon Musk announced on the company blog:
Tesla Motors was created to accelerate the advent of sustainable transport. 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. Tesla will not initiate patent lawsuits against anyone who, in good faith, wants to use our technology.
When I started out with my first company, Zip2, I thought patents were a good thing and worked hard to obtain them. And maybe they were good long ago, but too often these days they serve merely to stifle progress, entrench the positions of giant corporations and enrich those in the legal profession, rather than the actual inventors. After Zip2, when I realized that receiving a patent really just meant that you bought a lottery ticket to a lawsuit, I avoided them whenever possible.
Musk goes on to explain that Tesla collected patents despite his avowed aversion to them out of a (misplaced, he says) fear that big car companies would squeeze him out of the electric car business. Instead he's found little interest in joining the electric car marketplace.
Another Elon Musk company, SpaceX, apparently holds almost no patents. In that case, Musk said filing patents would be "farcical," as the company's main competitors are in China, he believes "the Chinese would just use them as a recipe book."
h/t Scott F.