Jan Kleffmann
Topics: Patent Law Subscribe

Patents hinder the spreading of climatechange mitigating technologies, don’t they?

First published 23 February 2024 by Jan Kleffmann

«Patents hinder the spreading of climatechange mitigating technologies, don’t they?» is a question I recently heard. Here are my thoughts on the topic.
There is a grain of truth to this, however let‘s first imagine for a moment a world in which patents do not exist.
The average inventor would try to keep as much details as possible of their inventions a secret, such that their competitors could not easily copy their technology. In order to monetize on innovations one would need to heavily rely on trade secrets. This would results in minimal sharing of technical knowledge and ultimately in slow technological advancement.
Returning to the real world with that in mind. There are (at least) three angles to the question:
Knowledge Sharing
For patents to be granted they are required to disclose the invention with enough details such that a skilled person is enabled to put the protected invention into practice. As a result, patents are great sources of technical knowledge, available to the public. In addition, inventors feel free to share details of their inventions knowing them protected by patents.
Promoting Innovation
Patents, as they can be used to stop competitors from copying the protected invention, stimulate innovation by incentivizing the inventor. However others as well are incentivized by patents to develop alternative approaches, to „innovate around“ existing patents or to use the technical teachings of a patent as a starting point for further improvements. It is therefore widely accepted, that patents foster innovation.
Technology Sharing
The owner of a patent, which protects certain aspects of a technology, is not obliged to grant anyone a license to the patent. It is therefore fair to say that patents can hinder - based on the decision of their owners - others to practice the patented invention. In practice however, there is rarely a single (protected) way to solve a technical problem and the first two points above kick in.
In Summary, I believe the pros in favor of patents outweigh the cons.

Regarding greentech specifically, there are initiatives to further increase the sharing of (patented) technology, such as WIPO GREEN: https://wipogreen.wipo.int/wipogreen-database/database


Related posts