‘Breaking the Climate Deadlock’ is an initiative of former UK Prime Minister Tony Blair and an independent not-for-profit organisation, The Climate Group. The Group's objective is "to build decisive political support for a post-2012 international climate change agreement in the lead up to the 2009 UN Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen".
To this end, Intellectual Property Institute chairman Ian Harvey has written a paper, Intellectual Property Rights: The Catalyst to Deliver Low Carbon Technologies. It's not very long, so it won't take you too long to read; it's free, so it won't cost you anything, and it's available in electronic form so you don't have to chop down too many trees in order to get sight of it. It's also quite focused, which means that you get the message pretty quickly.
Ian's Key Messages are as follows:
Ian recommends that
• IP, particularly patents, will be a catalyst, not a barrier, to creating and deploying low-carbon technologies.
• IPRs serve a number of important roles, including (i) providing the incentive for business to invest in risky projects aimed at meeting market needs; (ii) giving legal clarity and certainty for technology transfer transactions to take place, including creating patent pools and (iii) stopping others from blocking the use of a technology by follow-on derivative inventions
• Without IPRs there is no choice: there is nothing to give, transfer, sell or license so that others can invest in its further development.
• Objections to IPRs are usually caused by a lack of understanding of their role.
• Owning IPRs is separate from the decision of how much, or whether, to charge for them.
• Threats to strong IPRs, such as easily-obtained compulsory licensing, are likely to be a strong disincentive to invest.
• Governments are best placed to fund basic research, spreading their funding quite widely, whereas the development of new marketable technologies and products is most likely to succeed quickly in the private sector
• Although companies often complain vocally about the complexities and costs of patent thickets, in practice these problems are usually solved quite effectively by cross-licensing, by creating standard-setting bodies and by developing patent pools (where these do not breach ant-trust laws).
• Policy-makers should support and emphasise the importance of strong IPRs for
developing new low-carbon technologies.
• Plan to create antitrust ‘safe harbours’ for low-carbon technologies whose owners wish to create patent pools for certainty of access and of price.
• The World Trade Organisation would be the most effective forum for resolving debates and enforcing agreements about access to IPRs.
• Create an IPR Working Group (potentially under the TRIPs Council of the WTO) to address IPR issues and co-opt China as a potential leader in this forum.
• If limited compulsory licensing along the lines of the WTO Doha Declaration (for pharmaceuticals) were to be considered for low-carbon technologies, an independent assessment of its effectiveness and impact should be carried out immediately.
Right: the IPKat awaits a little climate change ... (artwork from Webweavers)