In this lesson, we'll talk about how patents could facilitate or restrict the transfer of clean energy technologies to developing countries. We'll elaborate on the global IP governance architecture that we began dissecting during our first class, focussing especially on TRIPs. Then we'll tie that into the international framework around climate change, and see how these intersect. Compulsory licensing is one blunt instrument being talked about to facilitate technology transfer. We'll conclude by considering issues related to indigenous peoples' traditional ecological knowledge.
What is the role of IP in the transfer of environmentally sound technologies from developed to developing countries? And if there are problems, how might we respond? To provoke discussion around those two questions, I've compiled a selection of materials presenting different perspectives. The following papers and articles will give you a sense of the contours of the debate:
- John Barton, "Intellectual Property and Access to Clean Energy Technologies in Developing Countries: An Analysis of Solar Photovoltaic, Biofuel and Wind Technologies," ICTSD Programme on Trade and Environment ICTSD Issue Paper No. 2, (ICTSD, December 2007).
- International Centre for Trade and Sustainable Development (ICTSD), "Climate Change, Technology Transfer and Intellectual Property Rights: Background Paper," (ICTSD, August 2008).
- Cynthia Cannady, "Access to Climate Change Technology by Developing Countries," ICTSD Issue Paper No. 25 (Geneva: ICTSD, 2009).
- Copenhagen Economics and the IPR Company, "Are IPR a Barrier to the Transfer of Climate Change Technology?," (European Commission, DG Trade, 19 January 2009).
- Lisa Larrimore Ouellette, "Addressing the Green Patent Global Deadlock Through Bayh-Dole Reform," 119 Yale L.J. 1727 (2010).
Insofar as IP might be a barrier to clean technology transfer, one solution people have talked about is compulsory licensing. The idea comes from the approach that was taken toward access to patented pharmaceuticals; can a similar solution work in the context of clean technology, and why or why not? Consider that question after reading (the executive summary of):
Here's another perspective on the issue:
But maybe the problem isn't technology transfer, but technology itself. That point is worth considering, especially from the perspective of some of the world's indigenous peoples. Take a look at:
UPDATE: See this new piece from Matthew Rimmer, "Rio+20: Who Owns the Green Economy," for a brilliant analysis of the most recent developments in the global debates over IP and climate change.