I was curious to see what inventions Elon Musk was directly involved (i.e. a noted inventor) in regarding TESLA. By being listed as a co-inventor of a patent application, others can tell what inventors had a part in developing the claimed technology in the patent application or subsequently granted patent.
After a very brief review, I was able to find out that Elon Reeve Musk is listed as being an inventor of only three patents that are also assigned to Tesla, and two of three patents are design patents. However, TESLA does have a lot more granted patents and patent applications currently pending with the USPTO.
Specifically, the three patents Elon Reeve Musk was at least a co-inventor of are:
Below are representative images of the above listed patents, and a brief summary of the patens.
U.S. design patent #D678,154 is entitled “VEHICLE DOOR.” This patent covers the ornamental design of a vehicle door as represented in the below patent figure.
U.S. design patent #D683,268 is entitled “VEHICLE” This patent covers the ornamental design of a vehicle as represented in the below patent figure. Many car companies will patent the look of their vehicles so no one can copy the exact design/look of their fleet. Design patents in general are much easier to litigate because an accuser can point to an infringing protect and pretty much say “that is an exact copy of my invention,” and no claim construction is necessary.
U.S. utility patent number: 20130078839 is entitled “FUNNEL SHAPE CHARGE INLET.” Independent claim 1 and a representative FIGURE are reproduced below.
1. A vehicle charge inlet integrated into a port assembly surface, the vehicle charge inlet comprising:
a plurality of electrical contacts configured to be electrically coupled to a second plurality of electrical contacts integrated into a charge connector, said plurality of electrical contacts comprising a first power contact, a second power contact, a ground contact, a pilot contact, and a proximity sense contact;
an inlet housing having an inlet surface, a first end and a second end, wherein said first end is closed by a bottom surface and said second end is open and sized to accept said charge connector, wherein said plurality of electrical contacts are integrated into said bottom surface of said inlet housing, wherein a perimeter of said inlet surface is curvilinear and non-cylindrical, wherein a second perimeter corresponding to said charge connector is complementary to said perimeter of said inlet surface and sized to allow insertion of said charge connector into said inlet housing, and wherein said perimeter of said inlet surface and said second perimeter of said charge connector permit only a single orientation of said charge connector upon insertion of said charge connector into said vehicle charge inlet, wherein said single orientation aligns said charge connector to said vehicle charge inlet and aligns said plurality of electrical contacts to said second plurality of electrical contacts;
a divider extending from said bottom surface and configured to fit within a complementary slot of said charge connector, said divider fabricated from an electrically insulating material, wherein said divider is separate from said plurality of electrical contacts; and
a latching mechanism integrated within said inlet housing, wherein said latching mechanism is comprised of a pawl configured to pass through said inlet surface and fit within a slot in said charge connector when said charge connector is inserted into said vehicle charge inlet during vehicle charging.
As shown by the independent claims and the patent application, the invention is directed towards a vehicle charge inlet that is integrated into a port assembly surface of the vehicle.
There are two things that I found interesting with this patent application.
The first is that the application was granted without an Office Action being issued from the USPTO. This is probably the case when you are dealing with completely new technology, such as TESLA’s electric cars. However, I have seen heavy duty machinery operate with electrical cables, and I find it interesting that not a similar charging port has been created before. The issue fee has not been paid on this case, and I am curious to see if Tesla files a continuation patent to try to obtain broader claims on this application.
The second thing I found interesting about this Tesla granted patent is the specificity that is in included in the inlet housing portion of the claim. Having the dimensions of the inlet housing require a curvilinear and a non-curvilinear portion make it seem like there are easy design arounds. For example, a square or linear charging port.
With the future developments of Tesla I will be interested to see what inventions Elon Musk is listed as an inventor of a patent or patent application.