Clean Technology Transfer

In this lesson, we’ll talk about how patents and other IP rights could facilitate or frustrate eco-innovation, and impact the diffusion of clean technologies globally.

Our discussion will unfold in two parts: First, in terms of business strategy, how is IP relevant to the invention and commercialization of clean technologies, i.e. “eco-innovation”? Second, as a matter of public policy, what mechanisms can resolve the current impasse in international negotiations over access to technologies that might mitigate or adapt to climate change?


Ec0-innovation is a topic that I’ve been researching, teaching and talking a lot about lately. Part of our class will focus presenting (by me) and critiquing (by you) my ongoing work in this area. I urge industry leaders and public policy makers to think progressively about innovation strategy and corresponding marketplace framework policies for eco-innovation.

Societies around the world must urgently accelerate the invention and adoption of clean technologies that contribute to more sustainable economic development and prosperity. To further that goal, I’m going to clearly explain the conceptual differences between “open” and orthodox IP strategies, offering a helpful framework to understand IP management within the new paradigm of open innovation.

Practical examples across economic sectors—ranging from resource extraction to automotive manufacturing to agricultural biotechnology to more general eco-patent clearinghouse mechanisms—will shed light on the commercial viability of open strategies for eco-innovation. By tailoring marketplace framework policies to new business models, I’m going to suggest workable IP and innovation related solutions to some of the world’s most serious environmental challenges.

Global Adoption

We can invent all the clean technologies we want, but unless they are adopted, especially in the world’s most populous regions, this won’t be enough to address the climate change crisis. During the second half of class, following the public lecture, we’ll elaborate on the global IP governance architecture for technology transfer that we began dissecting during our first class, focussing especially on TRIPs. The starting point is a look at Articles 7 and 66.2.

Then we’ll tie that into the broader international framework around climate change, and see how these intersect. Dr. Matthew Rimmer, once again, has an excellent summary of the issues intersecting with the UNFCC in this accessible article, “The Doha deadlock: intellectual property and climate change.”

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?

Digging Deeper

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:

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):

If you’d like an analysis of patent pooling in practice, have a look at this brief:

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: