Three things to know about how Intellectual Property can contribute to sustainability transitions 

On World Intellectual Property Day 2022, we take a look at how Intellectual Property can contribute to accelerating transformations to sustainability.

Three things to know about how Intellectual Property can contribute to sustainability transitions 

Limiting warming to under 1.5°C and avoiding the most hazardous effects of climate change will require immediate action to reduce emissions by transitioning away from fossil fuels and towards low emissions technologies. Many of the innovations needed to support this transition – such as improved batteries for electric vehicles – are currently going through rapid development, fuelled by scientific advances, falling costs and increasing demand. In addition to advances in materials and technology, achieving deep decarbonisation will also require wide-spread dissemination and take-up of innovations that can reduce reliance on fossil fuels. 

In this context, the IPACST (Intellectual Property in Sustainability Transitions) project funded through the Transformations to Sustainability programme is exploring how different Intellectual Property models can help or hinder transformations to sustainability, and working to identify best practices.  

Intellectual Property – or IP – ranges from patents and trademarks to trade secrets and copyright, and is defined by the World Intellectual Property Organization as referring to ‘creations of the mind’. As a recent IPACST knowledge brief explains, any organization generates informal IP, and some create ‘formal’ IP, which requires registration

IP is often associated with mechanisms to reduce knowledge-sharing and protect information that could be used more widely. But that’s a misunderstanding, according to the authors of the IPACST brief: IP rights do not prescribe any kind of behaviour, and therefore do not per se slow down technology diffusion. What matters is how those rights are used.

The good news emerging from the IPACST project is that strategic use and sharing of IP rights can be used to accelerate innovation for sustainable development. Here’s three things to know about how:

Intellectual Property Rights have an important role in determining the rate of change in manufacturing and in the development of sustainable products, but there is a lot still to learn about exactly how IP rights systems could be used to support innovation and diffusion of technology. This is especially the case when products are manufactured and sold multinationally, in countries that may have differing IP regimes.

On World Intellectual Property Day, find out more about IPACST and the findings emerging from the project on the Transformations to Sustainability website. You can also hear from IPACST project leader, Elisabeth Eppinger, and principal investigator, Frank Tietze, in a recent podcast from the UK Chartered Institute of Patent Attorneys:

Image by James Rathmell on Unsplash


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