Get All Access for $5/mo

'Patents Are For The Weak': Elon Musk Dismisses Intellectual Property Protections The Tesla and SpaceX CEO made the remark while showing Jay Leno around SpaceX's Starbase location in Boca Chica, Texas.

By Gabrielle Bienasz

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

CARINA JOHANSEN / Contributor / Getty Images
Elon Musk at the Offshore Northern Seas 2022 (ONS) conference.

While showing Jay Leno some rockets, entrepreneur and world's richest man Elon Musk dismissed the idea of protecting intellectual property.

"I don't care about patents… Patents are for the weak," Musk said, according to CNBC Make It.

Musk appeared on Jay Leno's Garage, a CNBC show, and took the "Tonight Show" host around SpaceX's Starbase in South Texas, one of the company's main operating sites.

On the show, Musk told Leno about the stainless steel on the outside of one of the company's rockets and called it probably "the most counterintuitive thing."

"Is that something you've patented?" Leno asked.

"No. we don't really patent things," he answered. "Patents are generally used as a blocking technique," Musk said.

"They don't actually help advance things, they just stop others from following you, and most patents are BS," he added.

But Keegan Caldwell, the founder of Caldwell Intellectual Property Law, which helps entrepreneurs monetize patents, told Entrepreneur that is not good advice for the average company.

"Every startup company should have some IP strategy," whether it's a decision not to enforce IP, or to have a trademark, patent, or trademarks, he said.

"It is paramount," he added.

Caldwell cited the statistic that 84% of the asset value of companies in the S&P 500 in 2018 was "intangible." That includes intellectual property, goodwill, algorithms, and other things you cannot physically hold, according to Bloomberg.

Tesla announced in 2014 that it would not pursue patent infringement lawsuits against people who used technology from its patents "in good faith."

Critics have said that phrase is vague and could limit the scope of the promise.

Caldwell is one of those critics, as far as Tesla's promise goes. He claimed the pledge only applies to a certain portion of the company's patent portfolio.

"It's not a guarantee they won't come after you," he said.

According to an analysis from the outlet Nikkei, Tesla obtained over 580 patents from 2003 to March 2021, far outpacing competitors.

Related: 4 Intellectual Property Mistakes Startups Make and How to Avoid Them

Gabrielle Bienasz is a staff writer at Entrepreneur. She previously worked at Insider and Inc. Magazine. 

Want to be an Entrepreneur Leadership Network contributor? Apply now to join.

Side Hustle

The Side Hustle He Started in His College Apartment Turned Into a $70,000-a-Month Income Stream — Then Earned Nearly $2 Million Last Year

Kyle Morrand and his college roommates loved playing retro video games — and the pastime would help launch his career.

Business News

A Former Corporate Lawyer Now Makes Six Figures on YouTube — Here's How She Does It

Here are the secrets to starting and growing a successful YouTube channel, according to a YouTuber with millions of subscribers.

Growing a Business

How to Determine The Ideal Length of Your Marketing Emails Your Customers Will Actually Read

Wondering how long your marketing emails should be? Here's what consumers say — so you can send them exactly what they like.

Business Ideas

63 Small Business Ideas to Start in 2024

We put together a list of the best, most profitable small business ideas for entrepreneurs to pursue in 2024.

Business News

Y Combinator Helped Launch Reddit, Airbnb and Dropbox. Here's What I Learned From Its Free Startup School.

The famed startup accelerator offers a free course on building a business — and answers five pressing questions for founders.