Working alongside the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the International Centre for Trade and Sustainable Development (ICTSD), the EPO will look at how IP can assist the development and spread of environmentally safe technologies (EST), with a view to amending the patent system in their favour.
Announcing the initiative, EPO president Alison Brimelow said: 'The IP system is essential for the development and effective dissemination of the new technologies that will be needed to address climate change. We need to ensure that the IP system promotes, rather than hamstrings, the transfer of environmentally friendly technology.'
Brimelow added: 'We are looking at how the patent system should be designed to meet the needs of innovators in the field of eco-innovation. To this effect, our efforts to ensure patent quality will be of central importance.'
In the course of their partnership, the three groups will work within the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change the international treaty of over a decade's standing that ushered in the Kyoto Protocol. The groups aim to produce a range of studies in the field of technology transfer for EST patents - findings from which will be collated into a series of proposals to be tabled at December's UN Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen. This gathering will see countries negotiate a new climate change agreement for implementation in 2012 and beyond.
ICTSD chief executive Ricardo Meléndez-Ortiz said: 'There is an urgent need for evidence-based analysis to inform current discussions on the role of IP Rights in the transfer of EST, bearing in mind the different perspectives on these issues. We are confident that this joint project will be a valuable input towards a better understanding of these issues, with a view to contributing substantially to enhanced transfer and diffusion of EST particularly to developing countries.'
Green patents have become a major force in the IP agenda, particularly since the advent in 2008 of the Eco-Patent Commons, led by sustainable innovations expert George Weyerhaeuser. Coinciding with the EPO announcement, UK IP minister David Lammy gave a speech at London's Science Museum in which he committed the UK to developing a fast-track system for approving patents with green applications.
'Environmental and low-carbon industries will increase substantially in the coming years,' he told his audience. 'I want to see us create the right conditions for them to grow here To help build on this, we will be launching an accelerated process for patenting green technologies which could mean that patents aimed at combating climate change are granted in as little as nine months.
'I know global challenges such as climate change need global solutions,' Lammy added. 'As well as growing and supporting green industries in the UK, tackling climate change will require the widespread diffusion and use of low carbon technologies. Put simply, I want to see developing countries get access to both knowledge and low carbon technologies.'