Sometimes, that arcane boilerplate language in press releases can be interesting.
Solar thermal vendor Ausra earlier this year announced it was going to switch from trying to build power plants in the desert to selling solar thermal equipment to industrial customers and hospitals for boiling water and making steam. It was a big surprise, but if you look in the boiler plate language at the bottom of their press releases, you can see how industrial steam sort of snuck in there a few months in advance.
And that brings us to the Martin Eberhard versus Elon Musk lawsuit. To summarize: Eberhard says Musk takes too much credit for the idea behind the company, blames Eberhard too much, and made him wait a long time to get a car. Musk says lies, all lies. One allegation that Eberhard really emphasizes is that Musk allegedly wrongly touts himself as a founder.
In any event, I've looked through the official Tesla literature. Musk is not listed as a founder. But you can see Eberhard's rise and fall. In the first press release (May 2006), Eberhard and Marc Tarpenning are listed as co-founders. It's the first sentence in the "About Tesla Motors" bit at the end. The names are even listed in that section before the mention that the car is electric. ("We we are proud of Mr. Musk's continued confidence in Tesla Motors expressed through his strong participation in every round of financing and his leadership on the Board of Directors," Eberhard said in a canned quote at the time.)
By January 2007, the statement about the founders got moved toward the bottom of the corporate bio.Then, in February, in a release about a factory to be built in New Mexico that never occurs, the Eberhard and Tarpenning bit disappears and the corporate bio consists of a soliloquy about Elon Musk. Days later, we are back to Eberhard and Tarpenning, but it's still lower than it was in the past. Just as well. In 2006, Tesla had promised to deliver cars within a year, but it was already having technical problems and delays. The first cars wouldn't arrive until early this year.
Then on July 31, the company issues a press release about its showrooms, a pet project of Musk's. Eberhard and Tarpenning's names are eliminated from the canned company bio.
On August 13, a note goes out from Elon Musk stating that founder Martin Eberhard will become president of technology. Founder? Tarpenning is gone completely.
Of course, in all of this, there is no mention of Tom Gage, founder of AC Propulsion. AC Propulsion already made electric cars and Eberhard originally wanted to sell those to the pubilc, according to various articles. (Here is one, and another.) Tesla ultimately licensed technology from AC. Musk had also earlier contacted Gage about electrifying a sports car.
So who is supposed to get credit for the idea here?