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Elon Musk is wrong about patents. Here’s why IP isn’t ‘for the weak’

Elon Musk patents
Image credit: Daniel Oberhaus (2018) via Flickr

“Patents are for the weak” retorted Elon Musk to veteran broadcaster Jay Leno while giving him a tour of SpaceX. Leno, during the latest episode of ‘Garage’, had asked Musk if he had patented his engines, which the world’s richest person described as “the most advanced ever made”.

Musk went further still on intellectual property, adding patents “don’t actually help advance things, they just stop others from following you”. There’s a touch of hypocrisy here given the patent portfolios Musk has amassed for Hyperloop and Tesla.

He’s also wrong.

It’s easy for Musk to dismiss the value of patents. The man and his money have established a dominant position in the space engineering sector, faced with little competition, where exclusion from the market is the absence of funding rather than patent thickets....