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WIPO To Debate IP vs. Greentech

by Brian Fletcher on July 13, 2009

The Financial Times reported today that efforts to avert a clash between the U.S. and emerging economies over patents at a climate change meeting later this year will top the agenda at a two-day conference that opens today on IP and public policy and organized by the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO).

At the G8 summit in Italy last week, China, backed by India and Brazil, repeated its call for easier access to patented clean energy technologies in return for signing on to a new global climate change accord in Copenhagen in December.  China, in a submission last year to the UN body handling negotiations on the accord, called for new rules allowing confiscation of patents through compulsory licensing of “environmentally sound technologies.”

India and Brazil say they want explicit recognition that compulsory licensing can be used in the interests of mitigating climate change under WIPO rules, drawing parallels with a 2001 WTO declaration relating to intellectual property and public health.

U.S. industry groups, with strong support in the Congress, are pressing the Obama administration to resist any weakening of patent protection in the Copenhagen talks, raising fears among environmental groups that wrangling could scuttle an accord aimed at limiting global greenhouse gas emissions.

In May, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce launched a Coalition for Innovation, Employment and Development specifically to lobby for maintaining strong intellectual property rights in the climate change and other international negotiations.  The coalition correctly argues that patents, copyright and trademarks are essential to stimulate innovation.  However, other organizations, including WIPO, say more creative use of the existing system could enable a wider spread of clean technologies without recourse to confiscation of patents.

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