The New Race: Speeding Up Climate Change Innovation

June 16, 2012

The threat posed by climate change has finally been recognized, and governments have begun taking actions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions to attempt to mitigate the potential damage. While government regulations may require reductions in greenhouse gas emissions, insufficient technology exists to achieve the necessary reductions without severe economic consequences. Encouragement of the development and dissemination of technologies related to emissions reductions will be a crucial aspect of any climate change policy. Current intellectual property law, however, does not provide sufficient encouragement for this necessary innovation. Thus, as others have proposed, modification of existing intellectual property systems is a way to further encourage innovation. The creation of a green technology program for protecting environmental technologies that includes relaxation of the non-obvious patentability requirement in conjunction with a shorter period of protection may be part of a solution. This should be combined with a compulsory licensing program that values technologies by their environmental potential. Current databases which are maintained by the EPA should be expanded to increase awareness of technologies, and the expertise of both the EPA and the USPTO should be utilized in determining whether environmental inventions should receive protection under the program.