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Published on September 10th, 2015 | by Guest Contributor


Tyler Burns Advises Why Environmental Innovation Needs Protection

There is a fervent debate raging in the intellectual property and environmental innovation and protection sectors right now. At the heart of matter is the question of whether intellectual property related to environmental protection and sustainability should face the same regulations related to exclusivity that intellectual property protection provides.

Intellectual property advocates stand firm that strong economies are built when innovation is protected, and intellectual property rights protect and promote environmental innovation. On the other hand, others believe that stringent intellectual property rules governing the intellectual property related to environmental sustainability and innovation are having a negative overall effect on the environment.


Last year, at an International Institute for Sustainable Development conference in Toronto, tech entrepreneur Jim Balsille had this to say, “Canada’s economy and environmental goals are incompatible unless new technology is brought to bear. The required innovation will stall unless the country protects the intellectual property of its innovators.”

This sentiment was also echoed by U.S. President Barack Obama last summer and earlier this week. An official White House statement read in part: “Intellectual property is everywhere, and every industry either produces IP or relies on it. The creativity and ingenuity of the American people have served as our national engine for creating and supporting tens of millions of jobs, contributing trillions of dollars in value, and representing nearly 35% of our Nation’s GDP and over 60% of U.S. exports.” This has solidified America’s stance as firm on the need to protect all intellectual property, regardless of the industry.

Meanwhile, Dr. Matthew Rimmer, an Australian Research Council Future Fellow working on Intellectual Property and Climate Change, is one of many who believe industrialized and developed countries like the United States, Japan, Canada, Denmark, Germany, the United Kingdom, and Australia are putting a stranglehold on the new environmental innovations that can aid in sustainability. Brazil, South Africa, India, and China  are among the countries that are pushing for greater flexibilities in respect to environmental-focused intellectual property for the purpose of addressing climate change and global warming.  “Small island states, least developed countries, and nations vulnerable to climate change have called for climate-adaptation and climate-mitigation technologies to be available in the public domain,” Dr. Rimmer’s report states.

However, The International Chamber of Commerce estimates that, “the worldwide market for counterfeit and pirated products alone could be as high as $1.8 trillion this year, and growing at rate of 22 percent per year,” a direct result of intellectual property rights infringements. This rampant theft is also responsible for the loss of approximately 2.5 million jobs due to counterfeiting and piracy. It is easy to see why this is such a contentious issue with billions of dollars, millions of jobs and the viability of environment all at stake.

Tyler Burns, Director of Investor Relations at Wi-LAN, an intellectual property management firm, believes the issue is more nuanced than the black and white arguments being presented. “IP is crucial to remain competitive and innovative in today’s world,” Tyler Burns said. “And a major aspect of that is protecting the property of the innovators.”

Intellectual property laws are meant to protect the innovator and allow for a period for the inventor to profit from their invention. “Inventors and innovators often spend a lot of money on research and development and bringing their product to market,” Wi-LAN’s Tyler Burns added. “The intellectual property laws are meant to allow these professionals the chance to exclusively market their product and recoup those initial costs.”

Canada may be leading the way in merging intellectual property rights with the need for environmental sustainability innovation. Canada’s oil sector is being asked to improve their environmental performance in terms of water usage, land disturbance and greenhouse gas emissions. In an effort to address these issues, companies have established the Canadian Oil Sands Innovation Alliance (COSIA). The alliance aims to share innovations that would normally be closely guarded intellectual property.

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