WTO TRIPS Council (June 2014): EU on the contribution of IP to facilitate the transfer of environmentally rational technology

On Wednesday, 11 June 2014, the European Union delivered the following statement on the “Contribution of IP to facilitate the transfer of environmentally rational technology technology.’

EU intervention under point 11. Of the TRIPS Council Agenda
“Contribution of IP to facilitate the transfer of environmentally rational technology”

A number of countries claim that intellectual property rights constitute a barrier to green development. Nevertheless, only a minute proportion of patents for Climate Change Mitigation Technologies (CCMT) are actually filed in developing countries.

Ecuador has highlighted today the importance of bringing “new elements” to this important debate. The EU would like to present such new elements to inform the discussion of this matter. According to two recent studies conducted jointly by the European Patent Office (EPO) and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), less than 1% of all patent applications relating to CCMT from the last 30 years (1980 to 2009) have been filed in Africa and less than 2% of worldwide CCMT patent applications are filed in Latin America [1] . These studies highlight that Africa & Latin America have a huge untapped potential for generating clean energy. They also show that IPR does not hamper the use and dissemination of climate-related technologies in developing countries and cannot be seen as an obstacle to technology transfer. On the contrary, most of the more than 720.000 inventions for climate change mitigation technologies made in the last 30 years are part of these (developing and least-developed) countries’ public domain and can be exploited without any IP related authorisation. Additionally, approximately 2 million patent documents relating to climate change mitigation are made available via the internet on offices’ patent information services and can be freely used for R&D purposes [2] .

For instance – referring to the countries that took the floor today – in Ecuador were identified 8 patents for CCMTs, in Cuba 14, in Chile 6 and in El Salvador 3.

Therefore, filed patent rights are unlikely to be a major consideration in any decision to exploit CCMTs. Other factors, such as lack of financial resources, high investment costs, subsidies and tariffs are much greater barriers to accessing technology. According to a study conducted by the EPO, favourable market conditions and a favourable investment climate are also considered significantly attractive conditions in the decision to enter into licensing agreements [3] . Moreover, IPR do not inherently make green technologies more expensive, as R&D costs only account for a small proportion of costs compared to manufacturing expenses.

[1] Patents and clean energy technologies in Africa”, EPO &UNEP, 2013 http://www.epo.org/news-issues/issues/clean-energy/patents-africa.html and ongoing study on “Patents and climate change mitigation technologies in Latin America” conducted by EPO &UNEP http://www.oecd.org/site/stipatents/2013%20PSDM%20Agenda_final.pdf

[2] “Patents and clean energy technologies in Africa”, EPO &UNEP, 2013

[3] “Patents and clean energy: bridging the gap between evidence and policy”, EPO & UNEP, 2010



Thiru Balasubramaniam is the Geneva Representative of Knowledge Ecology International. Prior to his post as KEI’s Geneva Representative, Mr. Balasubramaniam worked at Health Action International in Colombo and at the World Health Organization in Geneva as a technical officer in the Department of Essential Drugs and Medicines Policy dealing with access to medicines and intellectual property. He began his career with CPTech working on issues related to health care and intellectual property. Mr. Balasubramaniam holds a B.A. in Economics and a Minor in European History from the University of Pennsylvania.