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Intellectual Property: A Helpful Tool for the Environment

  • 27 November 2014
  • Articles

Historically, Intellectual Property and environmental problems have a common denominator: the Industrial Revolution. This great period of industrialization, production and worldwide economic boom was a watershed for both disciplines.

On the one hand, although the protection of trademarks and patents existed before that period, regulations and legislation about Intellectual Property in industrialized nations was created and on the other hand the accelerated consumption of fossil fuels rise and led to the beginning with many of the negative environmental impacts on the planet.

Almost three centuries later, Intellectual Property and the environment are no longer repulsive forces actually they are starting to work together. Nowadays, “green” technologies are essential to counteract the environmental impacts caused by human activities (anthropogenic environmental impacts).

Environmental impacts on water, air, soil and climate resulting from human activities were ignored for many years, causing serious and irreversible effects as climate change, considered as one of the greatest threats to humans. However, added to the historic regenerative capacity of the earth are: 1) national and global environmental policies (eg in Mexico, the new Climate Change Law),2) the “green” chemistry, 3) the promising energy revolution and 4) Intellectual Property, just to name a few as helpful tools for the environment.

Intellectual Property is emerging as one of the most useful tools for slowing climate change for being directly related to the creation of new technologies. Investment, protection, marketing, distribution or licensing of these technologies added to clean techniques are critical for mitigating global warming and yet a large area of economic opportunities for the private sector.

In the words of Francis Gurry, General director of the World Intellectual Property Organization president (WIPO) “Green innovation – the development and diffusion of technological means to tackle climate change – is key to halting the depletion of the earth’s resources. The race is on to develop accessible alternative sources of energy, as we work to harness the wind and tides, capture the power of the sun, and tap the geothermal energy underground. New plant varieties are being developed to withstand drought and flooding. New environmentally friendly materials will help us construct a more sustainable world.”

WIPO, Intellectual Property highest authority contributes to reduce emissions of “greenhouse gases as follows(http://www.wipo.int/about-wipo/es/climate_change_conf_09.html):

• Forums and Discussions on International Intellectual Property and technology transference.

• Access to database and creating specific patent databases about “green” Technologies. The development of the Inventory of the “green” International Patent Classification(IPC Green Inventory) contributes directly to this point.

• Advice on management, transference and dispute resolutions on clean technologies.

In addition to the efforts of WIPO, several national patent offices around the world have encouraged and prioritized (in terms of time request and granting) “green” patents over the rest. Although applications under acceleration process are not working properly, this system offers advantages to commercialize, develop technologies and sell licenses in shorter periods of time. In addition to the “green” patent also “green” trademarks are being promoted.

Earth natural resources are finite. A shift toward a sustainable model that allows us to simply survive as specie is required. The key points for this are in the personal environmental awareness and the promotion and development of environmental policies at the national and institutional level as those made by WIPO to reduce environmental impacts and anthropogenic climate change mitigation level.

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Intellectual Property: A Helpful Tool for the Environment