GREEN TECHNOLOGY: PATENTING A SUSTAINABLE FUTURE
Issue 14 | September 21, 2020
One of the key challenges of the 21st century is that of climate change and the global impact it is having. Extreme weather circumstances, failure of climate change mitigation, and natural disasters are the three environmental risks that top the latest Risk Report by the World Economic Forum. To encourage novelty and sustainability, climate change requires the development and dispersion of countless new technologies. Moving towards a carbon-free economy is a vital aim of humanity which makes it crucial to recognize the role of Intellectual Property Rights as an enabler of growth in ‘green’ technology.
GREENTECH AND IP RIGHTS
Green technology or Greentech refers to “environment-friendly technology.” Simply stated, it is the technology used in production processes using sustainable forms of energy. Clean energy seeks to use “alternative technology and fuels”, to pave the way for the protection of the environment and conservation of natural resources. Likewise, ‘patenting’ of Greentech is called “Green Patent.” This patent can be granted for any technology that dynamically stops environmental degradation.
When it comes to technology, green or otherwise, patents are the most obvious IP rights that come into the picture. These patents are generally granted for any technological innovation that is novel and commercially applicable. In furtherance of the agenda, several countries have put in fast-track schemes for approval of green technology, such as the UK IP Office, the US Patent and Trademark Office, and the Japan Patent Office. Certainly, without IP protection, due to the lack of trade, protection, and claims, no investor would be willing to take any risks. Particularly in the case of patents, registration ensures that the inventor has the ‘exclusive’ rights to exploit an invention commercially. By assisting in the development of secure channels, rights such as patents and trade-secrets act as means to protect innovation, while also making the general know-how publicly accessible.
THE INDIAN SCENARIO
At present, ‘green patents’ and ‘Greentech’ are not very known yet. Even in India, a specific Intellectual Property framework to streamline patent protection processes ceases to exist. Here, the difference lies in the priorities of ‘developing’ and ‘developed’ nations. While a developed nation can shift its focus to becoming more environmentally sound, a developing nation needs to focus on economic expansion.
Despite frequent impediments, there has been a constant push from the Government, as well as corporates to generate more ecological friendly innovations. Furthermore, low labour costs in India seem to give us an edge over other nations. During the Reliance Industries’ shareholders’ meet, Mr Mukesh Ambani declared that his company aimed to turn net carbon zero by 2035. Although this announcement drives innovation and entrepreneurial spirit to tap into the Greentech market, Indian industries have barely scratched the surface.
There have been a few initiatives for the enhancement and protection of ‘green’ IP such as the IPC Green Inventory (WIPO) and the Green Technology Pilot Programme (USPTO). Long-established nations such as Japan, South Korea, and the USA have dominated the market and account for nearly 60% of the world’s green patents. With a major focus on entrepreneurship, if India wants to tap into the field of Green Technology, the Government must provide similar incentives to Indian inventors to make the market irresistible. A business environment that strives to protect ideas and creations will encourage innovation and investment. India should recognize the fact that ‘green’ technology is the future and harnessing that power should be of utmost importance.