Research Handbook on Intellectual Property and Climate Change
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Research Handbook on Intellectual Property and Climate Change

Edited by Joshua D. Sarnoff

This innovative research tool presents insights from a global group of leading intellectual property, environment, trade, and industrial scholars on the emerging and controversial topic of intellectual property and climate change. It provides a unique review of the scientific background, international treaties, and political context of climate change; identifies critical conflicts and differences of approach; and describes the relevant intellectual property law doctrines and policy options for regulating, developing, or disseminating needed technologies, activities, and business practices.
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Chapter 6: The intellectual property regime: are there lessons for climate change negotiations?

Peter Drahos


States have been negotiating intellectual property rights for a long time. Some multilateral intellectual property treaties date back to the 19th century. By comparison the climate change regime is a young regime. Both regimes create norms around free-riding behaviour. In both cases, the free-riding behaviour is global, meaning that most states either have been or are free riders. Developed countries are largely responsible for the current concentrations of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere, but it is also clear that large developing countries like China and India will be responsible for much of the increase in energy-related CO2 emissions. In 2007 China became the biggest emitter of energy-related CO2 on an annual basis. Developed countries like Switzerland, which today support high standard intellectual property rights, were in the past free riders on knowledge assets. The purpose of this chapter is to consider whether there are lessons we can draw from the long evolution of the intellectual property regime that might help states to negotiate significant new commitments to reduce their CO2 emissions. Before beginning, we need a better understanding of the structure of the free-riding behaviour that each regime aims to restrict. The next section of this chapter does this. The remaining sections discuss some possible lessons. Before moving on, an important caveat needs to be entered. Nothing here should be interpreted as an endorsement of the substantive standards to be found in the intellectual property regime or for that matter the institution of intellectual property itself.

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