IP and Green Tech SC Examines Global Role for IP in Environmental Policy

by Patrick Breslin (BRESLIN CONSULTING LLC – U.S.A.)

The AIPPI Standing Committee on IP and Green Technology is working in earnest to complete a Position Paper to examine the rapidly changing landscape for the role of IP and related policies in promoting green technologies. The paper is scheduled for release by the London World Congress in September 2019. While the roles of IP and innovation are a constant where environmentally sound technologies are needed, the contexts and issues at play are very dynamic—they don’t stand still. More importantly, the urgency of the problems such technologies seek to address—that is, a safer environment for generations to come—requires attention on an accelerated basis. One need only witness record high global temperatures and unprecedented levels of natural disasters seen worldwide.

The paper will both update and expand on the Standing Committee’s prior work on green IP and tech issues. Past efforts include its report entitled “Climate Change and Environmental Technologies – the Role of Intellectual Property, esp. Patents”—published at the 2014 AIPPI World Congress in Toronto, Canada—which focused in part on IP granting policies (e.g. Accelerated Examination Procedures, or “AEP”) established in various countries. The new position paper also emanates from the Standing Committee’s prior work on AIPPI resolutions (e.g. “Patent Rights and Green Technology / Climate Change,” which was adopted at the 2016 AIPPI World Congress in Milan, Italy). Meanwhile, the position paper will continue to recognize and seek to complement the work from other country- and region-based initiatives, as well as the work of international organizations, from TRIPS trade agreements, to the multilateral efforts of the UN, WIPO, the EPO, the OECD and others.

As Chair Natalie Raffoul notes, “The IP and Green Technology Committee members are actively engaged and sharing new developments at country and regional levels. While progress in areas like AEPs have shown promise, for example, maintaining a level of consistency internationally may need more attention and focus.” The committee is also considering a need to observe and better understand wider interactions between IP-related policies like AEPs and other relevant policy areas, such as those promoting investments in green IP and technology development through other instruments and contexts. Noteworthy among these may be “downstream” environmental policies that have demand-side effect on the use of green tech, tax- and fee-related incentives for developers of early stage tech and IP in the area, and policies that promote or require greener production practices and consumption habits for industry and individuals, respectively.

While the Position Paper will focus on IP’s role on a global level—the forte of AIPPI—the Standing Committee is finding that consistency between different, but interconnected, policy areas is worth observing as well. For example, useful definitions of technologies and technology types qualifying as “green” or “environmentally sound” are identifiable and, yet, sometimes lack uniformity. Differences might be appropriate depending on the case, but the committee sees merit in developing common views of green technology language geared to the same end. This vision of future common ground may inspire coordination and more effective communication regarding relevant policies and practices themselves—both in IP-related areas and other green technology policy areas. As Ms. Raffoul notes, in the end, every country, citizen and policy maker on the planet is affected by the critical issues at stake. Thus, developing common language around green technology terms and qualifying criteria broadens the conversation, with potential avenues for improving multi-pronged efforts at identifying and innovating green IP—and improving the future of the planet.

Ms. Raffoul also notes that members are seeing areas where robust green IP-related policy was once put in place but may at times be less effectively implemented, and/or less supported by current political leadership in the area. The position paper will thus examine the status of previous goals for green IP and reinforce key principles and guidance set forth in the past, while re-examining the best next steps for governments and the IP community in the current context.