Your Business is Your Brand

“Patents are for the weak.” — Elon Musk

In 2014, Tesla’s CEO Elon Musk made a shocking announcement that sent ripples through the automotive industry:

Tesla would open-source its patents, making them freely available for anyone to use “in good faith.”

This unconventional move perfectly illustrates how a business decision can profoundly impact a brand.

At its core, this decision was rooted in Tesla’s mission to accelerate the world’s transition to sustainable energy.

By removing patent barriers, Tesla aimed to spur innovation in electric vehicle (EV) technology across the entire industry.

This wasn’t just about being altruistic; it was a calculated business strategy to expand the EV market as a whole.

This wasn’t a marketing gimmick.

It represented a fundamental shift in Tesla’s approach to intellectual property and industry collaboration.

The decision affected everything from Tesla’s R&D practices to its legal strategy and relationships with competitors.

Inside-out, this move aligned perfectly with Tesla’s values of innovation and sustainability. It influenced how the company approached technological development, encouraging a more open and collaborative culture internally.

Outside-in, the decision positioned Tesla as a leader and innovator in technology and business.

It reinforced Tesla’s brand as a company genuinely committed to its mission, even at the potential cost of competitive advantage.

It also differentiated Tesla in a crowded and traditional automotive market, attracting attention from consumers, investors, and potential employees who valued innovation and environmental progress.

It demonstrates how a CEO’s business decision, rooted in core company values and long-term business strategy, can powerfully shape a brand.

It shows that Tesla’s business approach is indeed its brand, with this internal choice directly influencing external perceptions and stakeholder trust.

By open-sourcing its patents, Tesla didn’t just change its own operations – it challenged the entire industry’s approach to innovation and competition.

This depth of impact is what distinguishes true brand-building from superficial marketing efforts, proving that an authentic brand emerges from the core of a company’s business strategy and operations.

By Paul Syng

Paul Syng is a multi-disciplinary designer based in Toronto. He focuses on a problem-seeking, systems thinking approach that can take any form or function.