Economics

Patent Commons

See allHide authors and affiliations

Science  21 Jun 2013:
Vol. 340, Issue 6139, pp. 1377
DOI: 10.1126/science.340.6139.1377-b

The ability of “green tech” to tackle environmental challenges depends on both scientific advances and deployed technologies. Despite widespread use of intellectual property (IP) incentives to promote technology transfer, IP restrictions may stifle diffusion of knowledge and development of “green” innovations. One proposed solution is the Eco-Patent Commons (EPC), formed in 2008 by IBM, Sony, Nokia, and Pitney Bowes. Participating firms offer, for free use by anyone, some of their patented environmentally relevant technologies. Hall and Helmers found that although EPC technologies were typically environmentally friendly, many were tangential to the creation of new environmentally sound technology. EPC patents were less than 0.1% of EPC firms' overall patent portfolios but were of similar value to the firms' other, non-EPC patents. Compared to other patents (including many from non-EPC firms), the EPC patents were of lower value. While acknowledging that EPC is relatively new and that knowledge diffusion may take years, they found that free access has not yet increased EPC patent citations.

J. Environ. Econ. Manag. 10.1016/jjeem.2012.12.008 (2013).

Navigate This Article