You would think you'd want to protect your intellectual property when you're building complicated things like spaceships and innovating new technologies daily.
But Musk's decision actually makes total sense. Why is that? Musk explains in a recent interview with Chris Anderson at Wired:
"We have essentially no patents in SpaceX. Our primary long-term competition is in China," said Musk in the interview. "If we published patents, it would be farcical, because the Chinese would just use them as a recipe book."
There are plenty of big holes in patent law — especially international patent law. And in some cases, they're totally bypassed anyway.
Thus, Musk's only option is to go with the trade secret route. That should end up working for a company like SpaceX, but as patent fights ramp up, something has to be done.
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