Tesla Motors announced it has opened its patent portfolio in hopes of encouraging other companies to create new electric vehicles. In a blog post, CEO Elon Musk said this was done “In the spirit of the open source movement, for the advancement of electric vehicle technology.” Musk also said many patents tend to hold back innovation and “enrich those in the legal profession, rather than the actual inventors.”
If you think this controversial move by Musk and Tesla doesn’t make sense, think again. We’re now living in the collaboration economy, and your competition is now your ally. It’s time to stop competing and start collaborating. Partner with the competitors in your industry by creating key relationships with the right people who have the right skills and can properly complement your strengths.
Without patents in the way, imagine what will happen next: more electric vehicles will hit the streets sooner, helping to make sustainable transportation a reality instead of a well-intentioned idea that sounds good on paper but never comes to fruition.
The electric car still has many hurdles to overcome. Despite being in the top 10 most popular cars for the wealthy, you don’t see too many Teslas on every major roadway just yet — even if it means never having to fuel up again. The vehicle has a range of more than 200 miles between charges, leaving many to wonder what happens on long road trips. But now that Tesla has done away with its patents and entered the collaboration economy, it’s opened the door for other manufacturers to improve on its formula — meaning it’s only a matter of time before the technology gets better and more affordable.
Look at Google: It wanted to expand the market for mobile devices so much, it gave away its Android technology at no charge. This paid off big for the technology giant because it guaranteed its search engine and other digital services supported by advertising would be prominently featured on them.
This same methodology is already taking shape across many industries, and is the new way of doing business. In Orange County, California, for example, there is a street called State College. On this street, there are no less than 30 tile and marble stores located together side-by-side on each side of the street for as far as the eye can see. Why? It’s all designed for the convenience of the customer. What is perhaps even more ironic is that some of the larger stores are frequently the suppliers for some of the smaller stores, because they have more buying power. Yet, the margins are solid enough that every business can win — and win together.
In some cases, if one store is out of a particular product, the business owners have developed an alliance with another tile and marble store on the same street so they can fulfill all of their orders. The stores both win, and, of course, the customer definitely wins as well.
Musk said 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.
In other words, we’re now operating in the collaboration economy, and if you don’t collaborate, your business will disintegrate. When we all work together we all win.
Topher Morrison is the author of "Collaboration Economy" and managing director of Entrevo USA. This piece was published previously in Expert Access online and other sources.