Intellectual Property and Climate Change

Intellectual Property and Climate Change

Inventing Clean Technologies

Intellectual Property and the Environment series

Matthew Rimmer

In the wake of the international summits in Copenhagen and Cancún, there is an urgent need to consider the role of intellectual property law in encouraging research, development, and diffusion of clean technologies to mitigate and adapt to the effects of climate change. This book charts the patent landscapes and legal conflicts emerging in a range of fields of innovation – including renewable forms of energy, such as solar power, wind power, and geothermal energy; as well as biofuels, green chemistry, green vehicles, energy efficiency, and smart grids.

Chapter 7: Climate Innovation Centres: Patent Law and Public Sector Licensing

Matthew Rimmer

Subjects: environment, climate change, environmental law, innovation and technology, technology and ict, law - academic, environmental law, intellectual property law


In Copenhagen and Cancún, there was much discussion about the use of public sector licensing in respect of intellectual property and clean technologies. One of the mooted options in the negotiating text for Cancún was to ‘take steps to ensure sharing of publicly funded technologies and related know-how, including by making the technologies and know-how available in the public domain in a manner that promotes transfer of and/or access to environmentally sound technology and know-how to developing countries on royalty-free terms’.1 There has been significant interest and concern about the exploitation and licensing of patents relating to clean technologies. The World Intellectual Property Organization has reflected: ‘For patented technologies that are developed by public sector institutions or through public funding, there may be additional expectations that the technology should be made available for the public benefit.’2 In this context, there is a need to determine ‘what licensing structures and IP management strategies are appropriate to promote the uptake and dissemination of technologies needed to address climate change; distinguishing the special responsibilities of those publicly funded or public sector institutions which increasingly hold key patents on valuable technologies with a strong public interest flavour’.3 It is worthwhile ‘shaping and exercising exceptions and limitations to patent law, to safeguard the public interest, such as 1 Ad Hoc Working Group on Long-Term Co-operative Action under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (2010), ‘Work Undertaken by the Conference of the Parties at its Fifteenth Session on the Basis of the...

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