New Climate Technologies Rarely Reaching Developing Countries, Panel Says13/07/2010 by Kaitlin Mara, Intellectual Property Watch 3 CommentsShare this Story:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)Click to share on Google+ (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to email this to a friend (Opens in new window)Click to print (Opens in new window)IP-Watch is a non-profit independent news service, and depends on subscriptions. To access all of our content, please subscribe now. You may also offer additional support with your subscription, or donate.Climate-friendly technologies are only rarely being transferred to developing countries, and then primarily to a small handful of emerging market economies, said the findings of a study presented today. That the changing global climate requires urgent response, and that this response will most likely include technology, is largely agreed. But what role intellectual property rights play in making sure that technology exists and is available is still not yet fully understood.Today, a roundtable of experts hosted by the the International Centre for Trade and Sustainable Development (ICTSD), and featuring speakers from ICTSD, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the European Patent Office (EPO) discussed the transfer of technology to developing countries, particularly in light of an ongoing joint project between the three organisation on licensing practices in clean technologies.“The IP system, in order to make sense, has to facilitate transfer of technology,” said Pedro Roffe, senior fellow at the ICTSD.But there is not a lot of data on how the IP system might do that, so often IP is discussed in an emotional manner, said Benjamin Simmons of UNEP.The UNEP-EPO-ICTSD Project on Patents and Clean Energy was intended to unearth some of the facts around how the IP system is functioning on clean technology. Its first three phases included mapping technologies in sectors identified by the International Panel on Climate Change – energy, buildings, transportation, and industry/agriculture – then undertaking patent landscaping and an analysis of trends and finally a licensing survey for selected companies and institutions, said Simmons.Thomas Maxisch of the EPO also presented a new patent classification scheme, launched 9 June, intended to make searching for relevant climate-related patents easier. For more on this scheme, see the EPO website here.Findings of the patent landscape indicate that innovation is concentrated in a handful of countries such as Germany, Japan and the United States, but that there are a number of companies participating in the market – that should decrease the risk of price gouging or unfavourable licensing fees due to lack of competition, said Simmons.Licensing Happening, But Not For Developing CountriesBut results from the licensing survey indicated that even still these technologies were not making it to developing nations.In answer to a question about how frequently the respondents had agreements with licensees in developing countries over the past three years, 58 percent said “never,” 25 percent said “rarely,” 12 percent said “occasionally,” and only 5 percent said frequently, Simmons said. When technology is licensed to developing countries, it mainly involves China, India, Brazil, and Russia and to a lesser extent Malaysia, Thailand and South Africa, the study found.“A licensing expert would tell you this is not unusual,” he added, probably due to differing capacities to absorb technology. “What’s important for us is we’re talking about this in the context of climate change, where we need to see technologies grow very quickly,” he said. So the compelling question is “how do we overcome this?’That IP is the barrier here is not clear. When asked to rank the importance of four preconditions for technology licensing, from lowest (“not a factor”) to highest (“compelling reason”), intellectual property received the highest responses at the extreme ends of the spectrum.Eighteen percent of responses said IP was “not a factor” in deciding to invest, whereas only 13 percent dismissed scientific capabilities, 16 percent dismissed favourable market conditions and 14 percent said a favourable investment climate was not a factor.At the same time, 25 percent said IP protection measures were a “compelling reason” in their decision to licence, with only 13 percent listing scientific capability, 14 percent listing favourable market conditions and 16 percent listing investment climate as “compelling.”What is clear is that “IP is a consideration, but it is not the only consideration,” Simmons concluded.The licensing survey was generated from 150 responses, so it is big enough to see trends but should be considered a first step, Simmons said. Most responses came from Germany, the US and Japan, followed by the Netherlands, France and the United Kingdom; biomass, biofuels and wind/solar power were the most common sectors of respondent companies.The Role Of IPThe role of intellectual property varies according to type of technology, said Ahmed Abdel Latif, a programme manager at ICTSD. Empirical evidence from a 2007 study commissioned by ICTSD [pdf] says that it is not currently a significant barrier, but cautions that there are areas such as second generation biofuels where it could become an issue, he added.There are two basic demands from developing countries on climate change, said Roffe. These are: the flexibility to implement it in a way that does not stop them from taking adaptation or mitigation actions, and the removal of barriers to access to technology from developing countries represented by intellectual property.These two demands are not in perfect harmony, said Roffe: if, under one proposal for barrier removal, IP rights on ecologically sound technology are negated in least developed and developing countries, then flexibilities are not a consistent request.The link between IP and technology transfer is important, but not necessarily clear cut, said Roffe. “IP is a condition but not a sufficient condition for successful transfer of technology,” he said.Separately, ICTSD has released several new publications in June focussing on the interplay between intellectual property, the need to efforts to preserve genetic resources and associated traditional knowledge, and access and benefit-sharing (ABS) laws. They are: “Disclosure of Origin and Legal Provenance: The Experience and Implementation Process in South America” and “Thinking Outside the Box Innovative Options for an Operational Regime on Access and Benefit Sharing,” both authored by Manuel Ruiz Muller of the Peruvian Society for Environmental Law; “Brazil’s Practical Experience with Access and Benefit Sharing and the Protection of Traditional Knowledge,” by biologist Eduardo Vélez; and “The Disclosure of Origin Requirement in Central America: Legal Texts, Practical Experience and Implementation Challenges” and “The Political Economy of the International ABS Regime Negotiations: Options and Synergies with Relevant IPR Instruments and Processes,” both authored by Jorge Cabrera Medaglia, of Costa Rica’s National Biodiversity Institute and Centre for International Sustainable Development Law. The publications are available from the ICTSD website here. A critical meeting for the UN Convention on Biological Diversity’s working group tasked with creating an access and benefit-sharing regime for genetic resources by October 2010 is scheduled for 10-16 July in Montreal, Canada (IPW, Biodiversity/Genetic Resources/Biotech, 9 July 2010).Share this Story:Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window)Click to share on LinkedIn (Opens in new window)Click to share on Google+ (Opens in new window)Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window)Click to email this to a friend (Opens in new window)Click to print (Opens in new window)RelatedKaitlin Mara may be reached at email@example.com."New Climate Technologies Rarely Reaching Developing Countries, Panel Says" by Intellectual Property Watch is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.