Intellectual Property and Climate Change
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Intellectual Property and Climate Change

Inventing Clean Technologies

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.
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Chapter 2: The TRIPS Agreement: Intellectual Property, Climate Change, and Disaster Capitalism

Matthew Rimmer


In the absence of any compromise being reached on international climate law during ongoing global negotiations, the World Trade Organization (the WTO) and the TRIPS Agreement 1994 will provide a framework for the consideration of the relationship between intellectual property, trade and climate change. The climate change and public policy expert Ross Garnaut has observed: ‘The links between climate change and trade policy are receiving increasing attention.’1 Pascal Lamy, the Director-General of the WTO, has made a number of speeches on the intersections between trade, climate change, and intellectual property (albeit the last topic only in passing).2 On 9 December 2007, at the Informal Trade Ministers’ Dialogue on climate change in Bali, Lamy observed that international trade rules, including those relating to intellectual property, could be deployed to deal with environmental protection and climate change: The WTO tool-box of rules can certainly be leveraged in the fight against climate change, and ‘adapted’ if governments perceive this to be necessary to better achieve their goals. The WTO has rules on product standards for instance, that encourage its members to use the international norms set by more specialized international institutions. The WTO has rules on subsidies, taxes, intellectual property, and so on. All of these tools can prove valuable in the fight against climate change, but in that fight, would need to be mobilized under clearer environmental parameters that only the environmental community can set.3 1 Garnaut, Ross (2008), The Garnaut Climate Change Review: Final Report, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 232,...

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