Patenting Green

It is over thirty years since colour was an issue in patents. Then it was a squash ball which was in the spot light, or rather a blue squash ball, and whether it was fair to be able to get a patent on a squash ball simply because it was blue, when black squash balls had been thrashed around squash courts for as long as one could remember. It was a case that caused a deal of humour, and intellectual soul searching, in the then arcane world of intellectual property. Now in a much changed world, the colour is green, and the stakes are higher, literally the future of the world. Once again there is soul searching in the world of intellectual property.

The challenges we face to deal with the eco-crises besetting the world are enormous, whether they are to do with global warming or water supply or food production. The issues and the challenges, and above the solutions, matter to every body on the planet. The solutions: the inventions, innovations, and good ideas are what the world is waiting for, what the world is dying for, but getting technologies developed, road tested and working takes time. One factor is the time it takes to get intellectual property protection on new ideas. The UK and USA have both announced fast track routes for patents on “green” technologies. Faster patenting leads to faster dissemination of technologies, and quicker solutions to eco-crises. In theory at least.

Getting intellectual property rights like patents in place quickly is part of the process. Getting the technologies spread to the right places, “transferred” in the lingo of IP, is another. To happen quickly, “green” technology transfer needs several things to be in place, including corporate will and the right approach amongst the experts in the IP community. The once arcane, intellectual backwater of the world of intellectual property is about to be on the critical path for saving the planet. Time for soul searching indeed.