A long-running and extensive European Patent Office (EPO) study into environmentally friendly technologies has revealed that Germany, France, Korea, Japan, the UK and the US are responsible for 80% of the world’s ‘clean-tech’ innovations. The figure emerged from Patents and Clean Energy: Bridging the Gap Between Evidence and Policy – an investigation launched in May 2009 by former EPO president Alison Brimelow.
Working in partnership with the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the International Centre for Trade and Sustainable Development (ICTSD), the EPO analysed patent filing habits around technologies that were likely to be helpful in the fight against climate change. Results of the study indicate that the advent of the Kyoto Protocol in 1997 spurred a surge in patenting activity around clean tech, and that patenting rates for the relevant technologies have grown by 20% per year ever since. This makes clean tech a more robust growth area for IP than innovations for traditional fuel production.
According to current EPO president Benoît Battistelli, the study ‘is both exemplary and groundbreaking in its cross-sector collaboration and delivers results that have a direct benefit to society’. Patents, he added, ‘play a key role in providing information about existing technologies, the level of their development and geographic spread. This information facilitates an informed debate on climate change’.
UNEP executive director Achim Steiner added, ‘Far from being a drag on economies and innovation, international efforts to combat climate change have sparked technological creativity on low-carbon, resource-efficient, green-economy solutions. The challenge now is to find ways in which these advances can be diffused, spread and transferred everywhere so that the benefits to both economies and the climate are shared by the many rather than the few.’
Meanwhile, ICTSD Chief Executive Ricardo Meléndez-Ortiz called for ‘a massive scale-up of use and diffusion of clean energy technologies globally – in particular to developing countries’.
In a joint introduction to the final report, Battistelli, Steiner and Melendez-Ortiz said that ‘contentious’ debates around clean-tech IP had typically been marred by a lack of empirical evidence ‘that would enable policy-makers to make informed choices’. It was their hope, they wrote, that the report would redress the balance and create greater transparency in the clean-tech landscape.
For previous NewLegal Review coverage of the study, go here and here.
To access the full EPO report, go here.
The six nations with the strongest records on IP for clean technologies have been named in a major European Patent Office research programme