"Eco-Patent Commons" Coalition To Place Environmentally-Friendly Patents In Public Domain

January 20, 2008 by Jeff Shepard

The World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) and IBM announced that several companies have come together in what is described as a first-of-its-kind effort to help the environment, unleashing dozens of innovative, environmentally responsible patents to the public domain. It is believed that the availability of these patents will encourage researchers, entrepreneurs and companies of all sizes in any industry to create, apply and further develop their consumer or industrial products, processes and services in a way that will help to protect and respect the environment.

The WBCSD and IBM are initiating this effort in partnership with Nokia, Pitney Bowes and Sony. The pledged portfolio, dubbed the "Eco-Patent Commons", is available on a dedicated, public website hosted by the WBCSD.

Patents pledged to the Eco-Patent Commons feature innovations focused on environmental matters and innovations in manufacturing or business processes where the solution provides an environmental benefit. For example, a company may pledge a patent for a manufacturing process that reduces hazardous waste generation, or energy or water consumption. A pledged patent covering a procurement or logistics solution may reduce fuel consumption.

"The Eco-Patent Commons provides a unique and significant leadership opportunity for business to make a difference – sharing their innovations and solutions in support of sustainable development," said Bjorn Stigson, President of the WBCSD. "The Eco-Patent Commons also provides an opportunity for companies and other entities to identify areas of common interest and establish new relationships that can lead to further development in the patented technologies and elsewhere."

"Innovation to address environmental issues will require both the application of technology as well as new models for sharing intellectual property among companies in different industries," said Dr. John E. Kelly III, IBM Senior Vice President and Director of IBM Research. "As the leader in US patents for 15 consecutive years, with 3,125 patents issued in 2007, IBM is excited to bring its patent resources to bear in service of the environment. In addition to enabling new players to engage in protecting the environment, the free exchange of valuable intellectual property will accelerate work on the next level of environmental challenges. We strongly urge other companies to contribute to the Eco-Patent Commons."

Membership in the Eco-Patent Commons is open to all individuals and companies pledging one or more patents. The selection and submission of each organization’s patents for pledging is at the organization’s discretion. The founding companies and the WBCSD are inviting other interested companies to become members and participate in this initiative promoting innovation and collaboration to help protect the planet.