Elon Musk ends OpenAI lawsuit without explaining why

Court docs suggest this matter could have run for years

Elon Musk has aborted his legal action against OpenAI.

Filings lodged with the Superior Court of California on Tuesday reveal that Musk called off the case but offer no reason for his action.

The social media, electric vehicle, AI, tequila, tunnelling, and rocketry entrepreneur brought the case in March 2024, alleging that OpenAI breached its contracts, engaged in unfair business practices, and failed in its fiduciary duty.

Musk co-founded and partly funded OpenAI in 2015. As explained in a June 5 court filing [PDF], he felt his contributions were "in exchange for and in reliance on promises that those assets were irrevocably dedicated to building AI for public benefit, with only safety as a countervailing concern."

His suit alleged OpenAI had not delivered on those promises, and sought remedies for "breach of contract, promissory estoppel, breach of fiduciary duty, unfair business practices, and accounting." Musk also wanted specific performance – a legal term for doing what's described in a contract – plus restitution, and damages.

To prove his claims, Musk suggested 20 weeks of pre-trial fact discovery would be needed and that it would be October 2025 before the matter would be ready for consideration by a court. Musk had written to OpenAI to commence that process, but the brainbox-maker had stymied all requests for info.

OpenAI's counter-argument rested largely on Musk's inability to produce a contract – meaning his claims of a breach were hard to prove. Indeed, OpenAI's assessment of the documents Musk did produce is that they "contradict his allegations as to the alleged terms of the agreement." The respondent was therefore pushing for the case to be dismissed.

Discussions about the discovery process were due to advance at an "informal conference" due to take place on June 12, but Musk's filings to call the case off landed on the 11th and contain no information about why he decided not to proceed.

At the time of writing, his X account does not include a missive explaining his decision to abandon the case. Nor does Sam Altman's.

The Register fancies that claiming breach of contract without being able to produce a contract may have made Musk's case tricky – although a 20-week discovery process could have turned up all manner of material.

Ironically, legal discovery – the process of assessing reams of complex documents – is one of the tasks considered a strong candidate for being performed by generative AI. Legal types wonder if computers offer a faster way to consider the millions of pages of material – a task usually given to fledgling lawyers. Musk quitting this case may therefore delay AI's advance into the legal profession just a little.

Since bringing the suit, Musk has also (of course) created his own AI company – xAI – and won over $6 billion in funding to advance the Grok chatbot already available on his social network, X. ®

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