Blue Planet II did its job well: the vivid imagery which showcased the sobering effects of climate change and human behavior on the natural world was reported as causing 88% of viewers to change their behavior.

This increase in public awareness of the problems facing the planet gave impetus to political efforts to focus on moving to a sustainable, cleaner, low-carbon economy. Green technologies play a crucial role in this, and obtaining robust protection for such technologies is an essential part of this process. Intellectual property (IP) rights provide innovators with a potential reward on the investment required to develop an idea, turn it into a viable solution to a problem and bring that solution to the marketplace, thereby diffusing potentially world-changing technologies.

The World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) was created in 1967 as a specialised, self-funding agency of the United Nations, with an aim of encouraging creative activity and promoting the protection of intellectual property throughout the world. The promotion of green technology has been a focus of WIPO for some time, as demonstrated by the launch of WIPO Green in 2013.

WIPO Green is an online platform for technology exchange that supports global efforts to address climate change by connecting providers with those seeking environmentally friendly technologies. Its aim is to accelerate the development and deployment of green technologies around the world by connecting technology and service providers with those seeking innovative solutions to the environmental challenges they face.

Green technologies are defined as those that “protect the environment, are less polluting, use all resources in a more sustainable manner, recycle more of their wastes and products, and handle residual waste in a more acceptable manner than the technologies for which they were substitutes” and include know-how, procedures, goods and services, and equipment as well as organizational and managerial procedures.

Providers submit details of their technology to the platform. Submissions are encouraged to be accurate and detailed, as the clearer the information about the technology, the more likely it is to be found and understood by a user. Submissions to the platform can then be freely viewed by the public.

WIPO Green prides itself on being the only platform to include in its database both technology ‘needs’ and technologies in all stages of development – from prototypes to marketable products – thereby listing both need and offering in one place. The WIPO Green database contains around 3,600 entries from around 1,200 users, both in the public and private sectors. It is felt that collaborative efforts between users can help to stimulate the development and distribution of green technologies. This is supported by research: a study by the University of Cambridge demonstrated that the patenting activity of US green technology start-ups climbed by an average of over 73% every time they collaborated with a government agency on a green tech development.

In keeping with this, WIPO Green runs annual Acceleration Projects, which focus on a particular geographical area or technological domain. The 2019-2020 Acceleration Project concerns climate smart agriculture (CSA), an approach to agricultural development that conceptually links the areas of climate change and food security and aims to increase agricultural productivity, improve resilience, reduce vulnerability to climate change and reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The project identified over 100 collaboration opportunities in the field of CSA within the database, and details of 18 of these technology seekers are currently highlighted on the WIPO Green website.

The technology that forms the focus of a submission to WIPO Green does not need to be patented, or in the process of being patented. However it is advisable for a patent application to have been filed prior to a submission, as disclosure of confidential or sensitive information on the platform may well jeopardize a subsequent patent filing. In addition, any licensing of the technology is governed by individually negotiated agreements rather than via the platform, and a patent or patent application for the technology is an important tool in any such negotiation.

We have considerable experience in identifying and protecting innovations in the clean tech and green tech fields. Environmental technologies often involve a high degree of complexity, which requires in depth understanding of different technical fields. Our clean and green tech teams include attorneys and lawyers with engineering, electronics, chemistry and biochemistry backgrounds, working in multi-disciplinary teams to bring their combined understanding to the drafting process and subsequent prosecution of the patent application. Our expertise includes batteries, biofuels, biomass, fuel cells, photovoltaic cells, geothermal power, hydro power, solar power, tidal power, wind power, water purification, hybrid/electric vehicles, anaerobic waste digestion, energy management, recycling, waste disposal, waste product utilisation, and carbon capture. To give just one example, our interdisciplinary bioinformatics team of computer scientists and biologists, which has gained a deserved reputation for protecting green innovations involving both subject areas, have successfully secured grant of an application for image processing of crops. We are also skilled at securing accelerated processing before the UK Intellectual Property Office of patent applications relating to innovations which have environmental benefit.

IP rights play a critical role in encouraging innovation and investment in the green technology field and we would be delighted to talk to you about your work in this area, or explain more about WIPO Green, further details of which can be found at https://www3.wipo.int/wipogreen/en/.