Panel 8B: Green Energy and International Property Law Issues
November 15, 2014
International Law Research Program, Centre for International Governance Innovation (CIGI)
Jeremy de Beer
University of Ottawa
Sustainable Development Technology Canada
Osler, Hosking & Harcourt LLP
Université de Montréal
2017 JD Candidate
Prof. de Beer started off the panel by laying out a framework based on three points of intersection for understanding the relationship between green energy issues and intellectual property law. These included: governance in multilateral negotiations, procedural cooperation and, protection of biodiversity (specifically in relation to indigenous communities). He asserted that the basic issue at hand is that developed countries expect developing countries to agree to greenhouse gas reduction targets and agree to buy the potentially expensive technologies required to attain them. The solution of fast-tracking patents dealing with green energy was discussed, as was the importance of access and benefit sharing in relation to indigenous communities.
The next presenter was Bassam Awad who framed the question at the heart of the debate over IP rights in green energy further. He stated that the crux of the issue is that developed countries that have invested heavily in green technologies want to protect IP rights and developed countries want them weakened or eliminated Mr. Awad cited the example of the Global Patent Commons Initiative, wherein companies donate green technology patents. He finished by raising the question of whether a new IP regime was needed that is better suited to the demands of the current system.
The next speaker was Mr. Webster, who participated as counsel on a major collaboration of companies working in the Alberta Oil Sands. The initiative was to share green technologies amongst themselves in order to facilitate a faster improvement in the ecological impact. He explained that this system, whereby companies would get credits for sharing these technological developments, served as a framework for sharing while still maintaining IP rights within the current framework.
Mr. Le Dain’s presentation focused on what he termed the innovation chain and how best to support entrepreneurs in green energy innovation. He explained that Canada, as a very resource rich nation, needed to be particularly focused on the development of technologies that facilitated extraction with less on an environmental impact. He concluded by offering clear cases of some of the benefits that could be attained by fostering the development of green technologies. For example, far less reliance on oil imports if truck engines were switched out for natural gas-powered models.
Finally, Konstantia Koutouki’s presentation focused on green energy from the perspective of the users, with South Africa as the case study. She stated that if South Africa doesn’t do anything about their IP laws, their present growth in green technologies will not continue; their capacity to receive technology transfers will be very limited. This issue is of particular importance as South Africa is one of the most prolific nations in terms of the generation of green energy. She said further that a patent office is needed as one to distinguish between technologies in need of protections and those not (only 1% of green tech in SA patented).