Today IBM and the World Business Council for Sustainable Development, together with Nokia, Pitney Bowes, and Sony, are announcing the creation of “The Eco-Patent Commons,” a new collaborative effort focused on shared use of intellectual property to help the environment.
Together these companies are pledging dozens of patents in what we hope will be an expanding effort. As the industry moves to have greater openness and collaboration as part of their balanced intellectual property strategy, the Commons can help companies ensure that “green” is an essential part of that strategy.
The overview of The Eco-Patent Commons from the World Business Council for Sustainable Development website states that the goals are
- To provide an avenue by which innovations and solutions may be easily shared to accelerate and facilitate implementations to protect the environment and perhaps lead to further innovation.
- To promote and encourage cooperation and collaboration between businesses that pledge patents and potential users to foster further joint innovations and the advancement and development of solutions that benefit the environment.
The press release gives examples of some of the environmental benefits expected for pledged patents:
- Energy conservation or improved energy or fuel efficiency
- Pollution prevention (source reduction, waste reduction)
- Use of environmentally preferable materials or substances
- Water or materials use reduction
- Increased recycling opportunity
Patents in the Commons will typically relate to manufacturing or technical business processes that directly show an environmental benefit.
The idea for the Commons was originally proposed at a IBM Global Innovation Outlook conference. Today’s Commons announcement follows IBM’s patent non-assertion pledges for
- 500 patents to benefit open source in January, 2005,
- healthcare and education standards in October, 2005, and
- over 150 Internet, SOA, web services, and Web 2.0 core standards for interoperability in July, 2007.
Dave Kappos, IBM Vice President and Asst. General Counsel in Intellectual Property Law, and I recorded a podcast about this announcement that goes into greater detail. The press kit also has additional information.
Finally, if you and your company would like to participate, the Commons overview has contacts as well as this advice:
Contact your Intellectual Property (IP) function and examine your business’s patent portfolio. Identify patents your business may want to contribute to the Eco-Patent Commons. Many businesses do not routinely patent innovations that benefit the environment, so some participants will have only a small number of patents to pledge. Contributing even one patent is sufficient for participation and can make a significant difference in helping to further sustainable development.
Selected Media Coverage:
- CNET: “Eco-Patent Commons shares earth-friendly tech”, by Martin LaMonica
- Reuters, “IBM, Pitney-Bowes, others give free green patents”
- San Francisco Chronicle, “‘Eco-Patent Commons’ hopes to improve environmental innovation”, by Tom Abate
- Bloomberg, “IBM Joins Sony, Nokia in Sharing Ecologically Friendly Patents”, by Matthew R. Miller
- VNUNet, “IT industry forms green coalition”, by Iain Thomson
- EARTHtimes.org, “IBM, Sony team up for Eco-Patent Commons”, by Brian Holmes
- InfoWorld, “IBM, Nokia, and Sony back green-patent giveaway”, by Ted Samson