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Green tech firms ‘should share innovations for greater good’

Out-Law News | 20 Jan 2022 | 2:28 pm | 2 min. read

Green technology firms should consider pooling their knowledge to help solve the climate crisis, according to intellectual property experts.

Cerys Wyn Davies of Pinsent Masons argued that while there were already many examples of exciting green technologies emerging, particularly around renewable energy, carbon capture and battery technology, “there is a need for more”.

Writing for World Intellectual Property Review, Wyn Davies said that the response of the scientific community to coronavirus had provided a useful blueprint for effective action against climate change.

She argued that the Covid-19 pandemic had “created an urgent need for new thinking around the protection and commercialisation of medical technology”.

“We have seen unprecedented levels of know-how and technology being shared voluntarily between competitors, particularly around vaccines, diagnostic tools and anti-viral treatments. This sharing is driven by the collective recognition that collaboration means quicker and more effective results,” she added.

Cerys Wyn Davies

Cerys Wyn Davies

Partner

A hybrid approach to technology sharing might strike a commercially acceptable balance, providing an incentive to innovate while acknowledging the urgent need to pull together to respond to a crisis that affects us al

Wyn Davies said that the voluntary sharing of technology was not limited to the pandemic, citing the more general availability of open-source software and creative commons licenses that allow one author’s work to be used, shared and copied by others.

Gill Dennis, also an intellectual property expert at Pinsent Masons and co-author of the World Intellectual Property Review article, acknowledged that some innovators might instinctively reject the prospect of freely sharing their work because of the risk of failing to recoup their original research and development costs. A company’s board might also be unwilling to approve what appears to be a commercially unsound decision that could result in a disincentive for future innovation.

However, Dennis argued that doing so can benefit a business reputationally and add long-term value to their brand. “When considering sharing new technology innovators should bear in mind that this does not have to be an ‘all or nothing’ scenario”, she said.

Wyn Davies said businesses could benefit from offering free access to their innovations by charging a licence fee for the use of related technologies, particularly diagnostic and analytical tools . “For example, a business may freely share a tool to diagnose severe illnesses or environmental damage. The obvious benefit to society of this freely available technology is that more people can secure diagnosis more quickly and receive or implement appropriate treatment to improve the quality of their lives or the environment,” Wyn Davies said.

“The benefit to the innovator is that, as the holder of the patent for the treatment of the condition or issue, they will increase revenue from the sale of the treatment through better diagnosis. This approach requires innovators to take a holistic look at the interrelationship of their technologies and assess where open access can provide societal benefits whilst revenue might be generated in the technology journey as a whole,” Dennis added.

Wyn Davies said that in the green space a hybrid approach to the sharing of technology “might strike a commercially acceptable balance, providing an incentive to innovate while acknowledging the urgent need to pull together to respond to a crisis that affects us all”. 

Cerys Wyn Davies and Nicky Pereira discussed the wider implications of greater levels of cooperation between green tech companies at a Pinsent Masons webinar on 12 January.