WTO TRIPS Council (February 2014) – India’s intervention on the contribution of IP to facilitate the transfer of green tech

On Tuesday, 25 February 2014, India delivered the following intervention at the WTO TRIPS Council on agenda item 11 (Contribution of Intellectual Property to Facilitate the Transfer of Environmentally Rational Technology). Ecuador tabled this agenda item.

Contribution of IP to facilitate the transfer of Environmentally Sound Technology

Chair, we thank the delegation of Ecuador for including the agenda item ‘Contribution of IP to facilitate the transfer of Environmentally Rational Technology’. I would also like to thank the delegation of the EU for highlighting their efforts in India through European Business and technology Centre. Since I am not aware of this initiative, I would not like to comment on this.

It is high time that the role of Intellectual Property is addressed in a constructive and balanced manner to address the issue of greenhouse gas emissions and climate change adaptation and mitigation efforts. Since any effort in this direction is dependent on the diffusion of environmentally sound technologies to the developing countries, it is essential that barriers in accessing these technologies are suitably addressed. Currently, a significant portion of R&D relevant to climate change is in the hands of a few private companies. According to WIPO (World Intellectual Property Organization), 215,000 ‘clean energy’ patents were filed between 2000 and 2008 worldwide. While this data may be little outdated and taking into account that at least 20% more patents have been added since 2008, it is very clear that the environmentally rational technology is controlled by private monopolies through patents and other IPRs. Further in the six energy technologies (wind, solar, photovoltaic, concentrated solar power, biomass-to-electricity, cleaner coal and carbon capture) it is observed that the US, Japan and Germany are clear leaders in energy innovations. India, China or Brazil do not have any organisations amongst the top positions in this field. Any diffusion of these technologies would thus be controlled by these few OECD companies. In a scenario dominated by a business approach to a planetary problem, IPRs are likely to play a key role in determining access to technologies and the cost of using them.

Climate change mitigation and adaptation requires not only a massive effort to develop suitable technologies, but mechanisms to make them readily available. Through the technology transfer unless there is a transfer of skills and know-how to use, operate, maintain as well as to understand the technology hardware so that further independent innovation is possible by recipient, there would not be any real diffusion of technology at affordable cost. The technology transfer could be termed successful only when the recipient enterprises develop expertise to develop technology through imitation or reverse engineering to adapt to the local conditions and eventually design and manufacture original products. While the owners of technology believe that a free market approach would address all the issues, including diffusion into the developing countries, it is a fact that the owners will never transfer their technology willingly for the fear of creating competitors. Further it has been observed that even when there has been some sort of technology transfer, it has normally happened through second or third tier companies and that too at an exorbitant price and with several strings attached. It is not possible that any efficient technology at an affordable prices can ever be transferred through a market based approach.

Since a global problem can never be addressed comprehensively through a commercial approach, a pro-active role of public policy at national and international level would be critical. It is in this regard we support the approach proposed by Ecuador to facilitate the transfer of environmentally rational technology and support the proposal from Ecuador for further discussion on this subject at the next meeting of the Council.