Sustainability collaboration requires action on IP

Out-Law News | 26 Oct 2021 | 9:59 am | 1 min. read

Business collaborations expected to be set up in increasing number to address climate change and improve sustainability could be put at risk of failure if the organisations working together do not address complex questions around intellectual property (IP) at the outset, experts have said.

In an article for Financier Worldwide, Cerys Wyn Davies, Tom Nener and Nicky Pereira of Pinsent Masons, the law firm behind Out-Law, identified the importance of collaboration to achieving climate change and sustainability targets and the associated IP issues that need to be considered.

“In the drive to address climate change and sustainability, no single entity will have all the answers and be able to develop the appropriate solutions,” the Pinsent Masons lawyers said. “Collaboration will be essential to combine resources and expertise.”

“Collaborations have been seen to produce great results, often in shorter time scales and at less cost. However, there are many IP issues which will need to be navigated when entering such collaborations, including the appropriate licensing of each party’s existing IP rights, the ownership of the IP that is developed from the collaboration and each party’s rights to use the results of the collaboration, both during the term of the arrangement and on into the future. Getting these issues right at the outset gives all parties the certainty required to maximise the value of their joint developments,” they said.

The article by Wyn Davies, Nener and Pereira coincided with a recent event they hosted in which they explained how businesses can leverage IP rights to secure competitive advantage, protect financial investment and generate significant additional revenue streams, and at the same time help build a ‘greener’ economy.

According to the three experts, businesses should consider patenting green innovations and registering design rights for new sustainability products. They further highlighted the potential for information at the heart of green innovation to qualify as trade secrets and the role for trade marks in building ‘green’ brands, as well as the importance of copyright and other IP licensing in enabling access to important sustainability software and data. Green IP risks, such as non-compliance with advertising rules when making ‘green’ claims, also need to be addressed, they said.

“Both the Competition and Markets Authority and Advertising Standards Authority have reiterated that green claims will become a key focus for enforcement efforts in the future,” they said. “Care should therefore be taken to ensure that any green claim is carefully written and can be fully supported by evidence.”