Green Intellectual Property- A Step towards Sustainability
As we enter into a new decade, we are witnessing the impact of climate change worldwide. Events that may be related to climate change already and are projected to become even more often and intensive almost daily – storms, floods, drought, wild fires – and the devastation caused by them. The global climate is a real challenge that needs to be tackled. Addressing this issue is the need of the hour and everyone collectively needs to consider this as their common objective in order to build a green future. As technology is predominantly getting the recognition as part of solution. This stresses out the further need in the development and implementation of the technologies, products and services that are required to move into a green future, to strengthen efforts to establish robust national innovation systems and to provide access to effective national intellectual property (IP) management schemes. These crises are not addressed and the objectives are not achieved without advanced technologies. Innovation will thus be vital in the sphere of "green" technology, with IP rights playing an important role. Intellectual Property rights can secure that investments in research and developments are amortised by commercialising technology, but they can also pose obstacles and limitations. The influence and possibilities that 'Green IP' can bring about is consequently significant.
"Green IP" will affect organisations from various industries, sectors, and geographies irrespective of their differences. The consumer goods industry needs to enhance their approach for modifying the requirements in terms of design of the respective products that can be recycled and repaired conveniently. Financial institutions perhaps have to oversee environmentally sustainable investments. There is also a need to ensure “high power efficiency and low waste” approach by real estate sector in their establishments. The infrastructure industry as well as the transportation industry will also have to find ways for the minimisation of pollution and alternatives for the hazardous materials. And the technology sector will have to provide the basis for most of the technology – from network infrastructure to big data and AI. The priority for many governments are both sustainable development and adequate protection of intellectual property (IP) rights. However, it is an unresolved topic whether governments are adopting appropriate IP rules to assist transitions towards a more sustainable world.
WHAT IS “GREEN TECHNOLOGY” AND “GREEN IP”?
Green Technology: "Environmentally sound technologies that protect the environment, are less polluting, use all resources in a more sustainable manner, recycle more of their wastes and products, and handle residual wastes in a more acceptable manner than the technologies for which they were substitutes".
This Green technology encompasses a wide range of products and systems. There is a tool that has been developed by the International Patent Classification Committee, known as “IPC Green Inventory”. This makes it easier to gather patent information regarding “green technology”.
The technologies categorised under IPC Green Inventory as follows:
Administrative, Regulatory and Design Aspects
Alternative Energy production
Nuclear Power Generation
Green Intellectual Property: Intellectual Property rights are conceptualized as a form of proprietary rights that facilitates the transfer, licensing, registration, and protection against any kind of infringement. Article 7 of the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) appreciates the role of IP rights:
"The protection and enforcement of intellectual property rights should contribute to the promotion of technological innovation and to 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."
In simple words, the protection granted to innovations that are beneficial for the tackling environmental crisis in some way particularly in the field of “Green Technology” are referred as “Green Intellectual Property”.
In the wake of technological revolution, there was the development of green technologies that tend to curb the crises by reducing the possible threats created by expanding globalisation, urbanisation, and human interference. As a result, it is critical to take steps to ensure that Green Intellectual Property is protected as quickly as possible.
The primary goal of intellectual property rights is to promote innovation and creativity by ensuring that inventors and creators are fairly compensated for their work and can earn a living from it, as well as to protect the goodwill vested in brands. IP rights are flexible in nature, allowing businesses to get timely returns on their investments in green technology, as well as save time and money. If an inventor wishes for her or his invention to remain in the public domain, secured IP rights can ensure that no third party commercially exploits the invention without the inventor's permission.
Given the numerous benefits of Green IP, developing countries, including India, must develop and access their IP system, as well as actively accelerate the process of granting Green IP protection. In addition to the above, a database in the form of a repository containing developments linked to green technology may be built in order to assist inventors, technical experts, end users, and industry eagles all over the world.
ESSENTIALITY OF GREEN IP:
To combat climate change, new innovations and techniques will be required, as well as modifications to existing corporate practises and steps to reward and promote sustainability initiatives. Patents and trade secrets are important in this case.
Many of the technologies that enable the carbon-based economy have undeniably harmed the environment, but technology is also the remedy here. The development of solutions that promote a green future will require new environment-friendly technology.
According to a latest report by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the China Centre for International Economic Exchanges (CCIEE), low-carbon innovation is a strategy for ensuring sustainability and delivers a credible, effective, and efficient path to accelerate global progress toward more climate-friendly and environmentally sound development.
Patent: Patent protection has a key role for increasing innovation and developing Green Technology. The Indian Patent Act, 1970 governs patents in India. A patent is a right provided to the inventor to restrict others from creating, using, selling, or exploiting an invention commercially without the inventor's prior consent.
The granting of a patent to an inventor protects the novel and unique invention in terms of its originality and utility, designed to fit the exclusive standards. Furthermore, it functions as a value – signal generator, expanding the scope for feasible technology partnership, which facilitates in technological diffusion and development.
Trade Secrets: Trade secret protection is available for any information that is not generally known, commercially applicable and of value due to its secrecy. Green innovations are thus eligible, but also commercial or financial information can be protected.
In terms of green technology, trade secrets are essential for both developed and developing countries, and agreement between R&D and trade secret protection is also ideal in nature. Companies may end up investing in physical protection of their secrets rather than innovations if they do not have efficient trade secret protection.
Design Rights: Design rights protect the external identity of products or parts of products. The prerequisites for securing such protection are quite convenient: the design must be new and unique, so that consumers can trace the origin of a product to the design. Design rights can also grant protection to "green" products or their parts. Parts that consist solely of technical features are exempt from protection, but parts that serve a technical purpose while also allowing for some design freedom are not. Design rights are extremely important in terms of spare parts, and therefore have a considerable impact on the product's sustainability.
Trademarks: The markers that indicates the origin of a product or service are protected by trademarks. The classic word or logos, as well as three-dimensional shapes, colours, or patterns, and also sounds and surface structures, are illustrations of such markers.
Trademarks frequently serve much more than as a marker of origin. They indicate attitudes, meanings, or expectations — for both the product and the customer. As a result, trademarks are an effective way of indicating that a product is "green," "sustainable," and / or environmentally friendly. Although trademarks may not always be entirely descriptive, they may also include easily comprehensible keywords such as "green," "eco," or "re" (for recycling). They can also safeguard a specific green colour or the impression of a product manufactured of a unique, ecologically friendly element.
As a result, there is an urgent necessity to enhance, develop, and make our intellectual property regulation more flexible and efficient around the world by implementing the following approaches:
to encourage innovations in the field of green technologies;
to disseminate and promote green technologies worldwide;
encourage consumers to prefer products and services that use green technologies; and allow green technologies to be transferred to other countries.; and
to permit the transfer of green technologies to other nations.
PROTECTING GREEN IP:
While strengthening growth in the economy in the sphere of technological innovation, the following are a few significant initiatives targeted at enhancing green technologies:
IPC green inventory– An initiative taken by WIPO linked to the IPC system that provides searches for patent information in environmentally sound technologies.
Clear Energy Research Centre– An initiative started by US-China in 2009 for research and development in the energy sector. The main objective was to facilitate cooperation on IP matters related to eco-friendly energy.
Joint Clean Energy Research and Development Centre– An initiative established between US-India in 2009 for the development of clean energy and the worldwide concerns of environmental sustainability..
Green Technology Pilot Programme– Established by the US patent and trademark office in 2009 to Streamline the review of patent applications relating to low carbon emissions, green technologies, and non-renewable resource conservation.
Eco-Patents Commons– This was established by the innovative green community in 2008 that consists of Sony, IBM, Nokia, etc., in collaboration with the World business council for sustainable development. It works in the fields of environment, energy conservation, pollution prevention, and water conservation to disseminate information and patents. Because the goal is for everyone to work together to achieve a common goal, no registration or notice is necessary to use the protected technology.
Organisations collaborate with stakeholder groups and partners to improve innovation in the development of Green technology. Such technological innovations involve substantial implications and massive investments; so, in order to facilitate and enhance the invention and dissemination of green technologies, creativity should also be facilitated by effective intellectual property rights protection. By encouraging a green future, intellectual property rights can contribute in the shift to a sustainable, low-carbon economy. This objective may indeed be attained with the cooperation of law enforcement agencies, stakeholders, and partners from multiple countries focusing on green technology development. Adopting diverse IP systems at distinct stages of the innovation process, such as research and development, commercialization, market access, and green technology dissemination across countries, might enrich a successful green inventor. Non-renewable resources are being depleted at an alarming rate.
Therefore, a transition towards green technologies, latest global environmental policies, and greater protection of intellectual property rights in this field is required.
By Goura Prasad Das