WIPO - WORLD INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY ORGANIZATION

 

  CLIMATE CHANGE & PATENTS - WORLD INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY ORGANIZATION - WIPO

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Daren Tang, Director General of the World Intellectual Property Organization

 

 

The WIPO's General Secretary is Daren Tang.

 

 


The International Intellectual Property system is accepted by at least two in depth studies as being far from an optimal incentive in the environmental field - as it stands - failing to adequately promote the development of climate change and other (not for profit) technologies, where patents tend to under-represent their social value. That allied to the fact that grant mechanisms only fund established entities with long trading track records, skips over the independent innovative champions of new technology fresh into the field. Many of which do not have an academic background, but more of a creative leaning, driven by a vision for a cleaner environment based on circular economics.

 

THREE EXAMPLES

 

1. SeaVax and the RiverVax variant, are examples of social inventions that could have provided a solution to plastic polluted rivers and oceans. The organizations developing the concept, could not afford the fees for patent applications that would have explained to (for example) the G20 how the technology could have benefited them. Further investment was deemed irrecoverable, both organizations having suffered significant losses in seeking to promote the technology. Hence, SeaVax was shelved in the interests of self preservation.

 

2. SmartNet is a load levelling service station for hydrogen trucks, cars, taxis and battery EVs, that may be modified for ports (for vessels such as 3. below), designed to reduce global warming, that may not proceed, where the inventor(s) cannot afford patent protection under current legislation. Again, further investment is deemed irrecoverable as the patent/grant system stands.

 

3. The 'Elizabeth Swann' is a hydrogen vessel that cannot be operated effectively because there are no hydrogen facilities in ports around the world. Equally, the IMO, has not yet introduced regulations for hydrogen and fuel cell vessel design and construction, not thinking far enough ahead, or with the requisite speed, where they and the fleet operators they look after were comfortable with diesel bunker fuels, that comfort being the enemy of clean tech progress. This example differs from 1. and 2., above in that it may benefit from commercial backing, and other opportunities and is thus not such a good example of tech that has little chance of seeing the light of day without patent cover.

 

IDENTIFIED PROBLEM

 

The identified problem is that policies are not in keeping with the need to incentivise low carbon technology invented by entrepreneurs of limited means.

 

This problem might be solved by the State, as the individual countries who are signatories to Patent Conventions, adopting a supportive mechanism whereby inventions may be applied for without the usual application fees and renewals, but with a Buy Now, Pay Later scheme (Apply/Grant now, Pay when Commercialized).

 

Engineers and think tanks, who might be the source of ideas that could blossom into zero carbon technology, do not get a look in, because of the exorbitant application fees, that are multiplied by the number of countries of cover.

 

Whereas patents only have very short shelf life of 20 years. Hence, do not represent a sound investment, where competing concerns, such as the fossil fuel contingent, will seek to prevent new technology that devalues oil and gas, from seeing the light of day. Running patentees into the buffers. Meaning bankruptcy for those foolish enough to take on the establishment. What kind of reward is that from society?

 

EQUALITY FOR CHAMPIONS

 

The would be champions of climate cooling technology, faced with financial ruin, should they even contemplate pushing green technology against such odds, simply turn their attentions to something less debilitating. And who can blame them. But we need to encourage champions. We need to give them a route with light at the end of the tunnel.

 

It's easy to be a technology champion, when you already have sales and an R&D budget. Not so easy fresh out of university, with no income, but the heart to give it a go. We are talking about equal rights for inventors.

 

THE PROPOSAL

 

We need to change the patent system to promote innovation and time invested in development. Where time is money.

 

How?

 

1. We could extend the life of patents to 50 years. Since it could take that long for some technology to come to fruition - and it may well represent the entire working life of an innovator.

 

2. Green patents should attract fees in the normal way if they are from companies with profits from sales. But the same patent from an individual of limited means, should be accepted and processed free of charges - by way of an exemption. This would have to be means tested, with other checks to prevent fraudulent applications from suspect entities.

 

3. Patents would remain in force, with no fees payable, until licensing generates fees. At which point the application and renewal fees would be repaid. Not unlike the student loan system in the UK, that allows people to gain knowledge, and pay later.

 

EXAMPLE 2.

 

The SmartNet system is an ideal candidate for exemption, because the Foundation developing it is a not for profit organization, that would like to champion the system, but has no legal muscle, to back up their know-how. Hence, the development of the system falls at the first hurdle. Further time invested would thus be a waste, where there are other climate problems to look at (such as 3.), where commercial backing is a possibility.

 

Logically, innovators will abandon ideas where no hope exists, in favour of concepts that may blossom in the commercial world we inhabit.

 

But, armed with a patent, a champion has something tangible to promote. Anyone partnering to develop the technology, has solid protection, to enable them to invest with confidence. As and when the system goes into production, the Countries, who effectively sponsored or invested in the development of the technology, are repaid.

Not only do the fees come back, but the world benefits in real terms with a potential solution to climate pollution from road transport, and where sited close to ports, that may also include shipping.

 

 

CLIMATE CHANGE and INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY

This is a quote from the WIPO's website:

 

"Addressing climate change is dependent on economic growth that works with, rather than against the environment. Innovative green technology solutions can help by allowing us to do more with less be it alternative energy production, energy saving, or greener forms of transportation, agriculture and forestry.

The challenge is to enhance the environment for innovation, while enabling speedier diffusion of these green technologies to all parts of the world."

 

The WIPO claim that their Global Challenges program works with multiple stakeholders to address these challenges, with a particular focus on:

- Hosting WIPO GREEN - a multi-stakeholder platform which aims to promote innovation and diffusion of green technologies


- Providing fact-based information and objective analysis of relevant intellectual property (IP) issues to to facilitate international policy dialogue;

 

- Contributing IP expertise to UN and other public policy fora where IP and innovation are discussed in relation to climate change.

 

But that does nothing to address the underlying inequality of the patent system - and many regard this as window dressing. Paying lip service to the concept of adapting policies to combat climate change.

 

 

DIRECTOR GENERAL

 

The Director General of the World Intellectual Property Organization in 2021 is Daren Tang. WIPO is a self-funding agency of the United Nations, with 193 member states.

 

 

 

 

CONTACT WIPO
 

Headquarters
World Intellectual Property Organization
34, chemin des Colombettes
CH-1211 Geneva 20, Switzerland

WIPO Contact Center
Tel: +41 22 338 9111
Opening hours: 09:00 - 18:00 (CET)

Central fax number: +41 22 733 5428
General or legal questions about the PCT: Tel: +41 22 338 8338 (Monday to Friday 09:0018:00 CET)
Questions about filing a PCT app using the RO/IB: Tel: +41 22 338 9222 (Monday to Friday 09:0018:00 CET)
Questions about e-filing: Tel: +41 22 338 9523 (Monday to Friday 09:0018:00 CET)

 

 

LINKS & REFERENCE

 

The Patent System and Climate Change - JOSHUA D. SARNOFF - Virginia Journal of Law & Technology

https://www.wipo.int/policy/en/climate_change/

https://www.jstor.org/stable/44633536

https://www.jstor.org/stable/44633536

https://www.wipo.int/policy/en/climate_change/

 

 

 

 

 

 

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