Going green is no longer a choice; it is a requirement for human life. Constructing a path to a sustainable future is a must for the twenty-first century. Businesses, authorities, and policymakers have begun to work together to combat environmental issues and the resulting challenges. With the rapid expansion of innovation, there is an urgent requirement to construct a robust innovation ecosystem and create a competent domestic intellectual property infrastructure that is more accessible to maintain the growth of technology, industries, and operations essential for the emergence of a greener and more sustainable future.
It is commonly acknowledged that strategic methods leveraging intellectual property must be matched with business practices for economic effectiveness. Thus, the emphasis of this Blog Post is on the development and evolution of an intellectual property infrastructure that supports the growth of green technology.
The worldwide climate catastrophe has become a formidable obstacle for businesses by disrupting supply chains and availability of labor. Hence, corporations, authorities, and policymakers have banded together in many regions to create a more vital solution. This cooperation has culminated in new ideas. The tangible effects of various new concepts and technologies has provided a thrust toward environmental stewardship. As a result, the concept of Green Intellectual Property (Green IP) emerged.
The United Nations General Assembly established the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) in 2015, which set bolder objectives than theMillennium Development Goals (2000-2015). The SDGs include agoal to “construct resilient infrastructure, promote sustainable enterprises, and support innovation,” indicating the interconnection between IP and the economy. In addition, the United Nations Human Rights Council and the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) stated in their joint book, “IP and Human Rights,” that “proper IP protection may aid the economic, social, and cultural advancement of the world’s multicultural demographic.”
Green IP can be used to boost clean technology development and adaption, often known as sustainable technologies which entails novel concepts to goods, operations, or other areas of a company’s operations that create minimum to no environmental degradation. Another commonly used term is “ecologically responsible technologies,” refers to technologies that can improve the ecosystem compared to other technology solutions. The Variable Wind Turbine, often known as the “039 Patent,” is a specimen of patented sustainable innovation. This technology is a patented technique that allows a turbine to harness wind at different speeds and turn it into electricity.
The existing IP system is not built to foster long-term innovation, because there is a plethora of patents and relatively insufficient knowledge about them, and hence it’s difficult for the system to eliminate patents that restrict innovators unfairly. Consequently, the current IP System does not encourage long-term innovation. Intellectual Property Rights (IPRs) may not be as significant as a more climate-conscious society when it comes to stimulating green innovation. There have been research attempts to determine how IPRs must evolve to become all-encompassing. Regulatory adjustments should emphasize eliminating administrative and practical patenting obstacles to offer the benefits required, such as abolishing the “non-obviousness” criteria for sustainable advances. The patent process must be changed to make it easier for innovators to get patent claims at a lower cost. Further, emissions could be reduced by stricter patentability criteria or lower patenting expenses. To avert catastrophic damage, climate expertsrecommend that the average global temperature rise be limited to around 2°C, a goal that can only be achieved by inventing and adopting “groundbreaking” technologies that drastically reduce emissions. Lastly, patent offices may play a significant role in long-term innovation considering that they are the deciding authority for grant of patents. Hundreds of start-up firms working in the domain of green technologies, have been launched, and a robust innovation market has emerged due to the grant of patents protecting their inventions.
Green Technology and Green IP
The term “green technology” refers to any technology that is environmentally beneficial or healthy. It is concerned with instruments and items used in environmental research, sustainable chemistry, pollution monitoring, and the promotion of sustainable development and ecological conservation. It refers to any technology developed to reduce the detrimental human effect on the environment. Sustainable technology entails decreasing resource consumption and mainstreaming renewable energy sources. Green technology also includes technologies that help to repair environmental damage. Examples are carbon sequestration technologies, ground improvement procedures, and other green technologies.
Article 7 of the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) captures the essence of Green IP as follows: “The protection and enforcement of intellectual property rights should contribute to the promotion of technological innovation and the transfer and dissemination of technology, to the mutual advantage of producers and users of technological knowledge, and in a manner conducive to social and economic welfare, and to a balance of rights and obligations.” The primary goal of Green IP is to revitalize and promote technological development and cost-effective opportunities by developing and protecting Green IP. The phrase “Green IP” refers to the protection of advancements in green innovation – while ensuring that the climate is protected.
Development must take place to promote social well-being and maintain a balance between rights and duties. It is that IPR provides inventors with distinct monopoly rights, which fosters the advancement of innovation. Using the growth of green technology, there seems to be a requirement to protect it with Green IP. Given the numerous advantages of Green IP like simple access to technology, technical assistance, licensing, and financial aid, it is critical that emerging countries, such as India, hasten the process of awarding Green IP rights to green technology. As an emerging economy, India needs need to align with its new industrial strategy of developing its domestic manufacturing base. Green IP licensing can help India develop at a racing pace while maintaining its climate obligations. As the need for carbon-based energy sources continues to climb due to the limitless worldwide power consumption, it is apparent that conserving the limited and scarce natural resources is critical for humanity’s continued existence and growth.
The following strategies are needed to create, enhance, and render IP solutions more accessible around the world:
- To make green technology innovations more accessible.
- To disseminate and support green technologies around the world.
- To enable the spread of sustainable products to other countries through multiple partnerships.
To understand Green IP better, there is a need to delve into individual types of IPRs and assess their adaptability to the concept of Green IP.
a. Trademarks: A trademark is a name or symbol on a product that identifies it as having been created by a specific business and that it is not allowed to be reproduced by others without consent. The registration process and its complications change from one jurisdiction to the next. Trademarks provide more than just an indicator of origin; they also represent broader significance, views, and intentions, not just for the businesses but also for the buyer. As a result, trademarks are significant since they inform customers that the product is “green,” orsustainable and ecologically beneficial. Even if trademarks are not ideal descriptions, phrases like “green,” “eco,” and others to express that the product is environmentally friendly can be beneficial. Trademarks are being used to protect specificcolors. Green or related colors have a good association with environmentally friendly products. Therefore, the product conveys its environmental responsibility to the buyer once more. In India, trademarks are governed by the Trademarks Act, 1999.
b. Trade Secrets: A trade secret is any company method or practice usually kept hidden from all but a few personnel. In India, trade secrets are not legally protected since there is a legislative gap in this area. Nonetheless, the courts have recognized and safeguarded this concept inseveral judgments. A trade secret is a crucial IPR of every organization since it protects the gateways for exchanging expertise by providing a secure environment to transfer secret records and unique trade and commercial expertise. Every government attempts to secure and promote trade advancements to stimulate significant investments in technological advancement. Green technologytrade secrets are an essential aspect for both developed and developing countries, and there is a favorable link between trade secret preservation and Research and Development (R&D). Trade Secrets act as an incentive for businesses to innovate by saving up on substantial time and capital and as a result develop competitively advantageous inventions. Without effective trade secret protection, companies may spend more money on the protection of their secrets rather than focusing on advanced technologies.
c. Copyrights: Copyright is a type of intellectual property that grants someone the exclusive right to reproduce creative works. It is now challenging to ignore copyrights in the context of green technology. Copyright is the most well-known form of intellectual property protection for software, algorithms, and other similar items. It is essential to recognize that the main idea or functioning of technology, in general, cannot be protected by copyright. However, specific bits of programming are copyrightable. The Copyright Act, 1957 is responsible for copyright protection in India. When it pertains to green technology,programming and data analysis can help enhance current technology in an ecologically friendly way and generate new technology in general. The copyright protection offered to such programs and databases is vital in the IP system.
d. Patents: A patent is alegal right granted to an inventor that prevents others from profiting from the patented innovation without the patent holder’s permission. As a result, when it comes to safeguarding innovations and technology, a patent is the most evident IP. Nevertheless, to obtain a patent, the invention must bedisclosed to the public in such a way that the typical person in that industry comprehends it. Additionally, patenting your innovation is acostly Encouraging environmental development and innovations is a pressing necessity that has gained national and worldwide acceptance. Even in environmentally beneficial technology, patent law is at the forefront of the IP system for promoting and protecting technological discoveries. As a result, a practice has emerged in numerous countries known as the “fast track green patent filings.” As a result of this approach, green technology obtains patents in weeks rather than the months it used to take. At this stage, it is essential to note that each nation has its own set of criteria for granting green patents to green technology. In India, Patents are governed by the Patents Act, 1970.
In case of India, there is avisible rise in applications for green tech. According to the Indian Patent Officedatabase, approximately 6000 patent applications have been submitted in the realm of solar energy as of today, while 10,000 patent applications have been submitted in the arena of renewable energy, which includes wind energy, energy generation, hydro wind electric power generation systems, solar thermal systems for domestic applications, and so on. In terms ofassessment criteria, such as novelty, inventiveness, and industrial applicability, patent applications pertaining to renewable or green technology are susceptible to the same substantial analysis or inspection as ordinary applications. However, there are still obstacles in the way of a speedy patent approval for the patent applicant. The longer time between filing a patent application and receiving a patent grants the applicant less time to market and license their inventions and get a quick return on their investment along with its use in the renewable energy sector. Patent rules that are better protected and enforced can allow international companies share technology with India with more confidence.
Patents assist corporations in securing the massive investment required to accomplish big green energy projects and take their new environmentally friendly innovations to market. Patents also help small-scale innovation, which is often aimed at helping resource-poor people in underdeveloped countries. Families in some of the world’s most benefit from patent-protected technology that provides clean, economical, and safe lighting solutions. Because patents give a legal right that can be asserted, sold, or licensed, companies with patents are better positioned to acquire and receive the capital and financing they need to develop their inventions.
1. Role of the WIPO
WIPO’s assistance in the execution ofAgenda 2030 is centered on theWIPO Development Agenda. Following its introduction in 2007, developmental concerns have become an increasingly important aspect of WIPO’s activity, with the global component of its operations and talks dramatically increasing. In furtherance of this, the WIPO launched the , public-private partnership founded by the WIPO in 2013 that provides a virtual program for technical interaction where individuals and groups from all over the world discuss the issue of climate change. It integrates sellers and buyers of cost-effective innovations through a database and channel to expedite green technology advancement and dissemination.
Working towards its goal to make green technology accessible and affordable, WIPO Green has already engaged with innovators, stakeholders, and governments as a part of its outreach program. In 2020, the WIPO launched the‘Women in Green’ interview series that engages female participation and entrepreneurship in the green tech innovation sector. WIPO Green has also formulated a program for providinglegal aid to organizations in developing countries with respect to green innovations on a pro-bono basis.
In collaboration with the Eurasian Patent Organization (EPO), WIPO initiated aproject to engage tech parks in Central Asian, Caucasus, and Eastern European governments in a discourse about their involvement in assisting Small and Mid-size Enterprises (SMEs), colleges, and academic institutes in their research and application of IP. The objective of these techno parks is to provide an environment that will enable the localization of various tech-related companies to foster development and build a breeding ground for technological innovation. Because of its importance to the country’s economy and the opportunity for marketing and geographic indicators to support expansion, the WIPO Brazil Office sought outpartnerships in the agri-business industry.
IP disputes can be handled by traditional litigation or alternative processes such as arbitration and mediation and are an essential part of any IP framework. The WIPO Arbitration and Mediation Centre modified its guidelines for disputes incorporating fair, reasonable, and non-discriminatory (FRAND) aspects while licensing standardized but important patents, added new infrastructure for disputes affecting SMEs, and established alternatives to enhance contract negotiation and dispute resolution in the biomedical industry as part of its integrated solutions for particular industries. The Centre strengthened its partnership with IP agencies and tribunals to encourage and implement alternative dispute resolution (ADR) methods to support domestic courts.
2. International Initiatives
It is evident that pro-active approaches and activities by governments in partnership with the corporate sphere are required to protect decreasing raw materials that are in short supply. As a result, some countries have undertaken action by investing heavily in the R&D of green technology advancements.
Some notable initiatives for improving and protecting Green IP are highlighted below:
1. TheIPC Green Inventory, launched on September 16, 2010, is a WIPO effort. It is a virtual search engine associated with the International Patent Classification (IPC) framework that makes finding patent data on environmentally friendly technologies easier.
2. In 2009, the US and China established theClean Energy Research Centre to allow cooperation R&D of sustainable energy technology by specialized teams of academics, scientists, and experts from both States. A US-China Renewable Energy Forum was also founded to improve IP coordination in the renewable energy sector.
3. TheJoint Clean Energy Research and Development Centre is a partnership between the United States and India founded in 2009 to improve green energy innovation and education and tackle global energy and climate sustainability concerns.
4. The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) established theGreen Technology Pilot Program in 2009 to expedite the assessment of patent applications pertaining to energy preservation, environmental security, green innovation, and carbon emission control.
5. In February 2008, significant transnational corporations such as Sony, Microsoft, Nokia, and others, in conjunction with the World Business Council for Sustainable Development, launched theEco-Patent Commons, a unique green ecosystem. This group intends to exchange information and patents about the environment, sustainable energy, pollution avoidance, composting, and rainwater harvesting. This forum is open to all interested organizations and third parties, and there is no need to register or give permission to gain admission to the secured technology.
3. Issue with the Enhancement of Green IP
The issue with the current patent regimes is that it is skewed, favoring IPR-based businesses, which fight for stronger patent enforcement, leading to prejudice against sustainable development. Current patent frameworks have led by recognizing any technical innovation or information that leads to sustainable prosperity, the technology can be made ecologically feasible. Because of the high costs of R&D and lack of R&D infrastructure, most developing countries likeYemen,Brazil,Trinidad & Tobago have beenstruggling to reap the rewards of green technology in today’s modern world.
The emphasis of developing countries should be on financial growth. They may not have the privilege of devoting their resources to social activities at the expense of commercial development. The significance of financial growth cannot be overstated. On the other hand, advanced economies can focus their efforts on expanding ecologically responsible technology. This is because they have reached a particular threshold of socio-economic development. Green technology development is diverse and involves advanced innovation and other specialties; as a result, the creators of such technologies would understandably advocate for its strong protection. Because of the long-term safeguards, the product will not be freely accessible to developing countries. Hence it is necessary to ensure that ecological and environmental development go hand in hand.
Green technology must be employed globally if it is to be a viable answer to global issues such as climate change. We cannot have advanced economies employing ecologically responsible technology while underdeveloped economies do not have exposure to it. This would be counterproductive to the entire goal of green technology. The reality is that having a patent grants you exclusive use rights, which is a powerful incentive to create. There would be no motivation to utilize green technology if it is not readily accessible to all individuals.
In today’s lifestyle, technological growth is significant. However, what is more critical is scientific progress and sustainable development. As a result, technical advancement can be oriented toward green technology, i.e., technology that emphasizes a State’s financial progress while not jeopardizing environmental sustainability and proactively supporting environmental conservation in the context of green technology. Patents can be used to achieve an odd but workable synthesis between commercial expansion and environmental sustainability as they grant protection to inventor’s rights and ecological development. Green technology patenting can help save the ecosystem and ensure that the objective of environmental sustainability is achieved in its totality.
Suggestions and Conclusion
In today’s world, IPR can help create a green future by assisting in the shift to a viable, low-carbon market. This goal may be met with the help of various governmental agencies, investors, and partners from various States working on green technology advancement. Implementing diverse IP models at multiple phases of the innovative methodology, such as R&D, monetization, market entrance, and renewable technology dissemination across countries, might assist a competent green inventor. Non-renewable sources are being depleted at an astonishing speed. As a result, a shift to renewable initiatives, new global ecological legislation, and tighter enforcement of IP rights in this area is required.
If India aspires to be a significant participant in green technology, the administration must offer similar benefits to Indian inventors, creating an attractive motive to pursue green technology development. The expense of processing and certification has been considered a barrier to the spread of green technology.Most of the time, majority of technology exchange fails due to the technology’s high processing fees. Because of this, the State must provide tax incentives and simple financing alternatives. Further, obstacles to technology exchange can be reduced by establishing an infrastructure that connects patent owners with businesses and providing appropriate incentives for technology holders to share their technology and “trade secrets” for its operation.
The Indian Government must take up the following tasks to ensure a sustainable environment for green technology innovation:
1. Create guidelines that apply the laws of IP for technological development and licensing.
2. Give tax benefits to individuals who create and are engaged in R&D for green technology.
3. Reduce processing fees and filing expenses for patents relating to green technology.
Businesses are encouraged to participate in technology protection, negotiate licensing agreements, and spend on R&D domestically when a robust IP protection system is in place. Tariffs and non-tariff charges often obstruct innovation, making it unappealing for businesses to engage in developing and underdeveloped States. As a result, the Indian government must examine the tariff placed on commodities to create an infrastructure for promoting sustainable products. The Indian government has officially introduced the“National Programme on High-Efficiency Solar PV Modules”, a Production-Linked Incentive scheme aimed at attaining industrial output of Giga Watt (GW) magnitude in High-Efficiency Solar PV configurations. The aim is to promote manufacturing of high efficiency solar PV modules in India and thus reduce import dependence in the area of Renewable Energy. It is heavily assumed that this will draw international commercial capital and experiential learning.
Businesses collaborate with relevant investors and partners to advance green technology creation. Due to the significant risks and enormous costs involved in such technical advancements, creativity should be fostered by strong IP rights protection to accelerate and amplify the creation and dissemination of green technology. Green technology innovation, implementation, and dissemination are easier with strong IP protection. As a result, a shift to a more responsible society based on green technology is required as a component of the formulation of growing international environmental regulations. Greater protection of intellectual property rights is an essential component of this approach. Those who have embraced the potential of green technologies will, without a doubt, be the leaders of the future.
About the Author
Ms. Nandini Shenai is a 4th year BBA.LLB (Hons) student at NMIMS School of Law, Mumbai.
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Preferred Method of Citation
Nandini Shenai, “Green IP-for-Green Technology: A Much-Needed Interplay Between Intellectual Property and Sustainability” (IJPIEL, 10 June 2022)