Elon Musk drops OpenAI lawsuit without explanation

12 Jun 2024

Elon Musk in 2023. Image: Simon Walker/No 10 Downing Street/Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Musk’s lawsuit claimed OpenAI moved away from its original goals by becoming a for-profit company, but OpenAI said Musk was supportive of this plan in the past and tried to take full control of the company in 2018.

Elon Musk has decided to quietly drop his lawsuit against OpenAI – and he hasn’t gone to his social media platform to justify the move.

Musk decided to sue OpenAI and its CEO Sam Altman earlier this year for seeking to profit from its AI creations. The billionaire claimed OpenAI failed to stick to the company’s original objective of developing AI for the benefit of humanity.

Musk’s lawyers said the purpose of the lawsuit was to make OpenAI adhere to its founding agreement and return to its original nonprofit mission of being open source, instead of providing financial benefit to its backers – including major investor, Microsoft. CNN reports that Musk also wanted OpenAI, Altman and co-founder Greg Brockman to pay back any profit they received from the business.

However, multiple media sites say Musk has moved to dismiss the lawsuit and did not give a reason for the decision. Reuters reports that Musk is dismissing the case without prejudice and that he could refile it at another time.

Why the dismissal?

The motive behind the dismissal is unclear, but it could be due to the fact that the case was built on poor foundations and biased motivations – Musk is currently a competitor to OpenAI with his own AI start-up, xAI.

OpenAI also hit back against the Musk’s lawsuit with their own side of the story and a series of emails sent by Musk before he left the company in 2018. These revelations may have also contributed to Musk’s decision to dismiss the case.

These emails show that Musk was previously supportive of OpenAI’s plans to become a for-profit entity and that he also wanted to take full control of the company before he left in 2018. OpenAI claims Musk sent an email in 2018 suggesting that OpenAI should “attach to Tesla as its cash cow” and that he could not see any other way for the company to “reach sustainable Google-scale capital within a decade”.

Perhaps Musk wanted to abandon the lawsuit before facing a potential defeat in court – CNN reports that a hearing regarding OpenAI’s motion to dismiss the case was scheduled for today (12 June).

The decision to dismiss the court case comes shortly after Musk was highly critical of the company’s new partnership with Apple, which will see ChatGPT integrated into Apple devices in the near future. Musk called the partnership an “unacceptable security violation” and threatened to ban Apple devices at his companies if the integration with OpenAI goes ahead.

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Elon Musk in 2023. Image: Simon Walker/No 10 Downing Street via Flickr (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0)

Leigh Mc Gowran is a journalist with Silicon Republic