Going green is not an option but necessary for continuous survival of human existence. Building a way forward to a green future is a 21st century imperative. The impact of climate change and need to act to preserve the environment is felt across the globe. Companies, Bureaucrats and Governments have unitedly begin to take action to tackle the climate change and the adversities arising out of it.

Considering the global climate crisis as a daunting challenge, technology is progressively recognized as a solution to this crisis. With day-to-day technological advancements, there arises a dire need to establish a robust innovation system and facilitate access to effective national IP systems that upkeeps the development of technology, products and services required in evolution of a green future.

To protect such innovations, advancements and creativity in the country and across the globe, Intellectual Property system plays a crucial and an enabling role in this drive.

Green Intellectual Property

GREEN TECHNOLOGY 

The term Green Technology’ signifies any kind of environmental friendly or clean technology. It further relates to the products and innovations of devices used in environmental science, green chemistry, environmental monitoring, promote sustainability and conserve the natural environment.

Green technology includes varied nature of products and systems. The International Patent Classification Committee developed an “IPC Green Inventory” which facilitates searches for patent information relating to green technology.

IPC Green Inventory includes following categories of technology:

1. Alternative Energy Production;

2. Energy Conservation;

3. Nuclear Power Generation;

4. Transportation;

5. Waste Management;

6. Agriculture Forestry; and

7. Administrative, Regulatory and Design Aspects.

By adoption of green technologies global warming caused due to emission of greenhouse gases, allow us to conserve the non-renewable energy and find alternative sources of energy namely; wind, solar, biomass, etc.

GREEN INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY

Intellectual property rights are core to the advancement and development of technology as they are conceptualized in the form of proprietary rights, which may further be transferred, licensed, assigned and protected against infringement.

Article 7 of the Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) acknowledges this role of intellectual property rights:

The protection and enforcement of intellectual property rights should contribute to the promotion of technological innovation and to the transfer and dissemination of  technology, to the mutual advantage of producers and users of technological knowledge and in a manner conducive to social and economic welfare, and to a balance of rights and obligations.

It is imperative to note that one of the primary reasons of granting monopoly rights under the IP system was to encourage and promote technological innovation and environmental benefits. There arose the need to develop and protect Green technology by way of Green IP.

The term ‘Green Intellectual Property’ refers to the protection of innovations in the field of green technology. It is a concept where innovations which are helpful to environment in one or the other way are legally protected.

Subsequently, there was advent of green technologies which tend to protect the environment by reducing the plausible hazards caused to the environment due to increasing globalization, urbanization and human intervention. Therefore, it is need of the hour to take an initiative for providing a fast track procedure for protection of Green Intellectual Property.

Additionally an effective Green IP system coupled with government initiatives and commercialized approaches may provide for the most efficient framework for green technologies.

“Since 2009, many patent offices, mainly in industrialized countries, have put in place   schemes to fast track ‘green’ patent applications. These include the UK IP office, the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), the Korean Patent Office, the   Australian IP Office, the Japan Patent Office and the Canadian IP Office. In April 2012,   the Brazilian National Institute of Industrial Property (INPI) announced a pilot    program to accelerate green patent applications. The objective is to encourage innovation in green technologies by bringing new products to the    marketplace more quickly.”

Bearing in mind the innumerable benefits arising out of Green IP, developing countries, including India, need to develop and access their IP system and pro-actively accelerates the process of grant of Green IP protection.

In addition to the above, a database may be created in form of a repository having innovations related to green technologies in order to facilitate the innovators, technical experts, end users and the industry eagles across the globe.

NEED OF GREEN IP

Though there is a constant rise in demand on of carbon-based energy sources considering the infinite global energy demand, it is prima facie clear that it is utmost essential to conserve the limited and finite natural resources for continuous survival and sustainable development of the human race.

PATENT

In order to enhance innovation and develop Green Technology, patent protection plays the most crucial role. In India, patents are governed by the Indian Patent Act, 1970. Patent is a right granted to the inventor to exclude others from making, using, selling or exploiting an invention commercially without the prior permission of the inventor.

Grant of patent protection to an inventor safeguards the novel and unique invention in terms of its originality and utility, developed to meet the exclusive specifications. Additionally it works as a value – signal generator and further widens the scope for potential technology collaboration which aids in technological diffusion and development.

TRADE SECRET

Trade secret comprises of confidential information, proprietary knowledge and technical know-how which is used by the businesses as an alternative option to exploit the technological developments commercially. Trade Secrets are per se not protected in India as there exists no legislation on the same, however, Indian Courts have upheld trade secrets under various statues including Indian Contract Act, Copyright Act, principles of equity and at times the common law action of breach of confidential information.

Trade Secret is heart and soul of every business and plays a significant role in safeguarding the channels for know-how exchanges by generating a safe zone for the transmission of confidential information and proprietary knowledge of the businesses.

Every nation shall strive for innovation and protection of trade developments in view to encourage significant investments in technological advancement. Trade Secret in relation to green technology acts as fundamental for both the developed and the developing nations and there exists a positive co-relation between R&D and trade secret protection. Without effective trade secret protection, companies may end up investing in physical protection of their secrets rather than investing in technological innovations.

Therefore, there exists an irresistible need to improvise, develop and make our IP system more accessible and facilitating across the globe by adoption of following approaches:

  • to encourage innovations in the field of green technologies;
  • to disseminate and promote green technologies worldwide;
  • to encourage consumers to favour products and services which integrate green technologies; and
  • to permit the transfer of green technologies to other nations.

INITIATIVES TO PROTECT GREEN IP

It is as clear as day light that in order to conserve the depleting natural resources which are not in abundance, pro-active approach and initiatives by the Governments in collaboration with private sector is need of the hour. As a consequence, several nations have come together and had taken initiatives by making huge and effective investments in R&D of green technological innovations.

Listed herein below are a few initiatives for enhancement and protection of Green IP.

1. IPC Green Inventory

Launched on 16.09.2010, is an initiative taken by WIPO. It is an online platform linked to the International Patent Classification (IPC) system that facilitates searches for patent information relating to environmentally sound technologies (ESTs).

2. Clean Energy Research Centre

Initiated by US-China in 2009 to facilitate joint research and development of clean energy technologies by specialized teams of researchers, scientists and engineers from both the countries. A US-China Renewable Energy Forum has also been established to facilitate cooperation on IP matters related to clean energy.

3. Joint Clean Energy Research and Development Centre (JCERDC)

An initiative launched by US-India in 2009 for advancement of Clean Energy and address global energy and environmental sustainability challenges.

4. Green Technology Pilot Programme

Created by United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) in 2009 to accelerate the examination of patent applications related to energy conservation, environment protection, green technologies, and reduction in carbon emission.

5. The Eco-Patent Commons

Launch of an innovative green community, in February 2008, by large multinational firms such as Sony, IBM, Nokia etc., in collaboration with the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD). This community aims to share knowledge and patents related to the environment, energy saving, pollution prevention, recycling, or water conservation. Each participating organization as well as any third party has free access to this community and no registration or notice is required to access the protected technologies.

CONCLUSION

For the development of Green technology, companies work with external stakeholders and collaborators to enhance innovation. Such technological developments involve high stakes and huge investments and therefore, to intensify and magnify the invention and diffusion of green technologies, innovation ought to be supported by strong IP rights protection.

Robust IP protection facilitates green technology creation, adaptation and distribution. Depletion of non-renewable resources is taking place at a very fast pace and the availability of the same is finite. Therefore, it is necessary to adopt a change towards a more sustainable lifestyle based on green technologies, which is part of the development of new global environmental policies and a stronger protection of IP rights is an integral part of this process.

The content is purely an academic analysis under “Legal intelligence Series”.

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Disclaimer: The information contained in this document is intended for informational purposes only and does not constitute legal opinion, advice or any advertisement. This document is not intended to address the circumstances of any particular individual or corporate body. Readers should not act on the information provided herein without appropriate professional advice after a thorough examination of the facts and circumstances of a particular situation. There can be no assurance that the judicial/quasi-judicial authorities may not take a position contrary to the views mentioned herein.

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I am a litigation & arbitration advocate. I am founder of a leading full service law firm AMLEGALS. I handle litigation in indirect taxes, Insolvency & Bankruptcy Code, IPR, Arbitration, Contracts etc in High Courts, Tribunals-NCLT,CESTAT,NCLAT etc, Arbitral Tribunals and various Court of View Full Profile

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