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Intellectual Property, the great ally of green innovation and economy

  • 26 April 2020
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Like every 26 April, today is the World Intellectual Property Day, an event promoted by the World Intellectual Property Organization which this year invites us to reflect on one of the greatest challenges of our time: sustainability and the future of the planet.

Intellectual Property and sustainability have not been subjects that have historically followed convergent paths. Just as the Industrial revolution meant an enormous boost for the development of laws and regulations on Intellectual Property rights in industrialized nations, many of the innovations created in this period generated an undeniable negative impact on the environment.

However, recent experience has proved that these two worlds can complement one another in a very effective manner. IP and technology transfer serve to protect and promote the monetization of sustainable technologies, which has undoubtedly been a stimulus for their development in the last decade. In fact, Intellectual Property has proved to a great ally of “green economy”, which opts for a productive model encouraging human wellbeing, social equality, the reduction of environmental risks and ecological scarcity.

The prominence of green economy has increased in such a way in recent years that international institutions and experts are already taking about a “green recovery” with reference to the production model which could be adopted by the States to palliate the effects of the economic situation caused by the coronavirus. The axes of this “green” recovery would take advantage of and maximize the innovation in energy efficiency, transport and new production models in the food sector, among others.

Specifically, the Patent System entails not only an incentive for the generation of new sustainable technologies, but also allows the access to inventions of public interest for all of society. That is why countries like Australia, Brazil, China, Israel, Japan or South Korea have adopted procedures for speeding up the grant of green patents for the technologies linked to the boost of sustainability. In the same way, private organizations have resorted to open innovation models based on technological collaboration mechanisms to facilitate the access to green technologies.

However, and as warned by the WIPO, there is still much work to be done in this field. If we analyze the PCT patent applications related to ecological energies, we observe that, in 2019, the growth of innovation in environmentally friendly technologies was only 1.3%, with 16,940 applications. Although this figure undoubtedly contributes to the sustained growth in recent years, the datum is significantly lower than the maximum reached in 2016 (17,880 applications), and represents little more than 6% of the total number of PCT applications filed during all of 2019.

This has led the Director General of the WIPO, Francis Gurry, to request Governments and public and private institutions to increase their efforts when boosting a sustainable innovation. In Gurry’s words, “climate change has far-reaching effects for all of us and innovation in green tech sectors will be key to successfully addressing this global challenge”.

These data, added to the current situation, with a considerable part of the production stopped during the worldwide pandemic, invite us to carry out a profound reflection on the innovation that we wish to continue boosting in the future. Also, why not, on the world which, now more than ever, we can build taking advantage of the turning point at which we are.

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