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    EU Parliament Urges Change In IP Rules For Environmental Technology

    Published on 29 November 2007 @ 9:33 pm

    Intellectual Property Watch

    By David Cronin for Intellectual Property Watch
    BRUSSELS – Intellectual property rules should be reshaped to ensure that they do not hinder developing countries from gaining access to technology considered vital for addressing climate change, the European Parliament has declared.

    Members of the Parliament (MEPs) on 29 November approved a report that urges examination of the possibility of revising the World Trade Organization Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS). TRIPS may need to be amended, the report suggests, in order to allow for the compulsory licensing of environmentally-friendly technology that is patented.

    This call follows criticism by environmental activists of the European Union’s insistence on robust protection of intellectual property. The policy was laid out in a 2006 paper from the European Commission entitled Global Europe, which stated a determination to demand a high level of IP standards in markets where European firms operate.

    Friends of the Earth (FOE) argues that this policy is making crucial technology too expensive for developing countries. It advocates that TRIPS be altered so that technologies geared towards fighting climate change are excluded from patentability in order to push their prices down.

    “With a high IPR [intellectual property rights] regime, products and processes are now patented and less accessible,” said FOE campaigner Meena Raman. “So to really achieve the transfer of climate-friendly technology, the biggest incentive would be to eliminate IPRs [intellectual property rights] related to these technologies.”

    Dalindyebo Shabalala of the Center for International Environmental Law in Geneva said waiving patents could be necessary to ensure the wider availability of fuel-efficient cars. These vehicles are designed to cut emissions of carbon dioxide, the main gas blamed by scientists for triggering climate change.

    “The automobile industry is fully protected with respect to IP,” he noted. “There are hundreds of patented products in cars. The EU’s insistence on high IP protection is an insistence on a high price for climate change-related goods. This means that people in developing countries cannot afford to pay for them.”

    While TRIPS does allow for exceptions to patents in cases of public health or environmental emergencies, he feels there is a case to be made for making those provisions clearer. “TRIPS can be a barrier [to technology transfer] if it is interpreted in a certain way,” Shabalala added. “There may be a need for more clarity.”

    The Parliament’s report was drafted as part of preparations for the international conference on climate change in Bali, Indonesia (3-14 December), which is likely to launch talks on framing a successor to the 1997 Kyoto protocol for reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

    French Green MEP Alain Lipietz, the author of the report, said the EU is already a world leader in developing renewable energy technologies such as solar panels and wind turbines. It should also become a world leader in exporting “environmental goods and services,” he added.

    As well as revising IP rules, he called on the EU to remove the tariffs it levies on imports of “green goods” such as low-energy light-bulbs, and to campaign for an end to subsidies for heavily polluting industries.

    But Stavros Dimas, the European commissioner for the environment, claimed that IP protection does not present as great a problem as some maintain. Often, he said, there are many types of technologies that can allow the same approach, citing the availability of numerous different wind turbines.

    “The cost component of the intellectual property rights is judged to be a relatively small part of the total cost of such technologies,” he said.

    Although he acknowledged that IP rights can prove a barrier to technology transfer, he said that other issues such as the economic policies of developing countries need to be taken into account. “Many companies will not invest in developing countries if their IPRs are not protected and if capacity-building in the host country is inadequate.”

    Dimas gave a commitment that the EU will use the Bali conference and any ensuing talks to push “for a better understanding of the full range of barriers” to technology transfer.

    David Cronin may be reached at info@ip-watch.ch.

     

    Comments

    1. Tim Roberts says:

      Is it thought that eliminating IP rights will encourage technology owners to transfer their technology to developing countries? Or to keep in mind the needs of developing countries when doing R&D?


    Leave a Reply

    We welcome your participation in article and blog comment threads, and other discussion forums, where we encourage you to analyse and react to the content available on the Intellectual Property Watch website. By participating in discussions or reader forums, or by submitting opinion pieces or comments to articles, blogs, reviews or multimedia features, you are consenting to these rules.

    We welcome your participation in article and blog comment threads, and other discussion forums, where we encourage you to analyse and react to the content available on the Intellectual Property Watch website.

    By participating in discussions or reader forums, or by submitting opinion pieces or comments to articles, blogs, reviews or multimedia features, you are consenting to these rules.

    1. You agree that you are fully responsible for the content that you post. You will not knowingly post content that violates the copyright, trademark, patent or other intellectual property right of any third party or which you know is under a confidentiality obligation preventing its publication and that you will request removal of the same should you discover that you have violated this provision. Likewise, you may not post content that is libelous, defamatory, obscene, abusive, that violates a third party's right to privacy, that otherwise violates any applicable local, state, national or international law, that amounts to spamming or that is otherwise inappropriate. You may not post content that degrades others on the basis of gender, race, class, ethnicity, national origin, religion, sexual preference, disability or other classification. Epithets and other language intended to intimidate or to incite violence are also prohibited. Furthermore, you may not impersonate others.

    2. You understand and agree that Intellectual Property Watch is not responsible for any content posted by you or third parties. You further understand that IP Watch does not monitor the content posted. Nevertheless, IP Watch may monitor the any user-generated content as it chooses and reserves the right to remove, edit or otherwise alter content that it deems inappropriate for any reason whatever without consent nor notice. We further reserve the right, in our sole discretion, to remove a user's privilege to post content on our site. IP Watch is not in any manner endorsing the content of the discussion forums and cannot and will not vouch for its reliability or otherwise accept liability for it.

    3. By submitting any contribution to IP Watch, you warrant that your contribution is your own original work and that you have the right to make it available to IP Watch for all purposes and you agree to indemnify IP Watch, its directors, employees and agents against all damages, legal fees and others expenses that may be incurred by IP Watch as a result of your breach of warranty or of these terms.

    4. You further agree not to publish any personal information about yourself or anyone else (for example telephone number or home address). If you add a comment to a blog, be aware that your email address will be apparent.

    5. IP Watch will not be liable for any loss including but not limited to the following (whether such losses are foreseen, known or otherwise): loss of data, loss of revenue or anticipated profit, loss of business, loss of opportunity, loss of goodwill or injury to reputation, losses suffered by third parties, any indirect, consequential or exemplary damages.

    6. You understand and agree that the discussion forums are to be used only for non-commercial purposes. You may not solicit funds, promote commercial entities or otherwise engage in commercial activity in our discussion forums.

    7. You acknowledge and agree that you use and/or rely on any information obtained through the discussion forums at your own risk.

    8. For any content that you post, you hereby grant to IP Watch the royalty-free, irrevocable, perpetual, exclusive and fully sub-licensable license to use, reproduce, modify, adapt, publish, translate, create derivative works from, distribute, perform and display such content in whole or in part, world-wide and to incorporate it in other works, in any form, media or technology now known or later developed.

    9. These terms and your posts and contributions shall be governed and interpreted in accordance with the laws of Switzerland (without giving effect to conflict of laws principles thereof) and any dispute exclusively settled by the Courts of the Canton of Geneva.

     

     
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