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Published on October 26th, 2015 | by Guest Contributor


Jim Skippen, former WiLAN CEO, Remarks on IP Protection in Green Tech Sector

The protection of Intellectual Property (IP) in the environmental innovation sector has been a contentious and persistent issue in recent years, with advocates on either side believing they are doing what is best to foster innovation. The term green technology, which is broadly used to cover a variety of sectors, has been the main area of dispute between those who want potentially environmentally beneficial technologies shared freely and those who want the same regulatory safeguards that apply to all IP innovations to apply to green technologies as well.


Last year, the French-based Asociation Internationale pour la Protection de la Propriete Intellectuelle (AIPPI) released a report entitled Climate Change and Environmental Technologies – The Role of Intellectual Property. The report’s authors cited discrepancies in the language and laws governing international IP as a cornerstone to the ongoing controversy.

For example, the United Nations Framework Convention of Climate Change (UNFCC) lumps all green technology into one group and refers to it as Environmentally Sound Technologies (ESTs). ESTs are defined as: environmental protection technologies, pollution reduction technologies, technologies that use existing resources in a more sustainable manner, technologies developed for the recycling of waste and products and technologies that handle residual wastes.

However, the Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Change (IPCC) divides ESTs into two distinct categories: Climate Change Mitigation Technology and Climate Change Adaptation Technology. Climate Change Mitigation Technology is described as technological changes and substitutions that reduce energy resource inputs and emissions. Meanwhile, Climate Change Adaptation Technology governs technologies intended to reduce the harmful effects arising from the forecasted continuation of climate change.

While it’s important that green technologies are widely implemented to ensure maximum environmental protection, it’s also crucial that we protect innovators and companies that undertake these efforts and that deserve to capitalize on their invention, idea and/or property. “In order for organizations involved in developing greentech to succeed in business they must undertake to have their intellectual property properly evaluated, protected, and commercialized,” say the experts at Coller IP Management. “Organizations that solve some of the problems and invent new ways to be green need to be very protective of their IP.”

Jim Skippen, the former CEO of WiLAN, a Canadian-based licensing and intellectual property management company, believes the rise of innovation in the green technology sector will only stand to benefit by IP protection safeguards and regulations. “… I would say to smaller entrepreneurs is keep your eye on your patents. Many times, patents are a secondary thought because they are expensive to maintain and file,” Jim Skippen advised in a past interview. “At the end of it all, your patents may be the most significant part of the company’s value.”

Despite the need to combat climate change, throwing our current regulations to the wind will do nothing to bolster green innovation. In fact, deregulating green tech IP may have an adversely detrimental effect on green innovation, and the environment as a result.

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