Eco-Patent Commons

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= "a process to share intellectual property (IP) related to environmental and ecological technology."



"an “eco-patent commons” (EPC), a process to share intellectual property (IP) related to environmental and ecological technology."

There is a need. The vast majority of patenting happens in the North, whereas the rapidly industrializing South requires all the help it can get in managing environmental impacts (see figure below). The goal is to have the EPC serve as the catalyst for collaboration and innovation in addressing urgent environmental challenges.

If it gets beyond the idea stage, the EPC could include a coalition of global business and academic leaders who are willing to grant royalty-free access to relevant IP. The EPC could provide a collection of patents pledged by companies (and other IP rights holders) for unencumbered use by all, enabling these organizations to more quickly innovate and implement processes that improve and protect the environment.

Depending on participation by others, IBM would contribute a number of appropriate patents and leverage key client and partner relationships for additional contributions." (

Status in 2008

" The WBCSD (World Business Center for Sustainable Development) held an EPC information meeting at the beginning of its New York Council meeting and has been facilitating the discussion of the EPC with member companies. The Council is exploring hosting the EPC to stimulate technology cooperation in support of sustainable development. Participating members and the WBCSD could outline the operating principles and framework, host an EPC-dedicated website, and help manage the collaborations that may result.

The Council has worked over the years on the connections between innovation, technology, sustainability and society, work that has included a stakeholder dialogue on intellectual property rights. IBM has been exploring the same space through its Global Innovation Outlook project and series of meetings, and the company has also been working with “open source” software.

At several international meetings, WBCSD President Bjorn Stigson has found that governments are deeply concerned over the IP controversies, and are looking for new ways forward, hoping that business can help them find them.

IBM and the WBCSD are inviting companies to join a core group and attend a kickoff meeting in early 2007 to start discussing the framework of the Eco-patent Commons." (

January 2008:

"The official launch of the Eco-Patent Commons (? was announced today by IBM and the World Business Council for Sustainable Development who, along with Nokia, Pitney Bowes, and Sony, are offering dozens of innovative, environmentally-responsible patents into the public domain."

September 2008:

"The newly-pledged patents include:

-- A Xerox technology that significantly reduces the time and cost of removing hazardous waste from water and soil; -- A technology developed by DuPont that converts certain non-recyclable plastics into beneficial fertilizer; -- Automotive technologies from Bosch that help lower fuel consumption, reduce emissions, or convert waste heat from vehicles into useful energy; -- Technologies developed by founding member Sony that focus on the recycling of optical discs.

The Eco-Patent Commons, launched by IBM, Nokia, Pitney Bowes and Sony in partnership with the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) in January 2008, provides a unique opportunity for global business to make a difference – sharing innovation in support of sustainable development. The objectives of the Eco-Patent Commons are to facilitate the use of existing technologies to protect the environment, and encourage collaboration between businesses that foster new innovations.

The new pledges more than double the number of environmentally-friendly patents available to the public. They are available on a dedicated Web site hosted by the WBCSD ( Many of the original patent holders have been contacted directly about their patents and we know of at least three patents that have already been used by others since the January launch of the Commons." (Michael Maloney, IBM Media Relations)


Michael Maloney:

"Here are some examples of what the IBM patents and patents from others may enable others to do:

- Implement a process that uses ozone to replace harsh chemicals in safely producing TV screens, camera optics, eyeglasses and contact lenses - Use recyclable and biodegradeable packaging material to better protect delicate items during shipping - Implement a process to reduce harmful emissions from factories and cars - Create new electronics products such as clocks, calculators and PDAs from cellphone components"

More Information


For more information:

  1. WBCSD site at
  2. press release at
  3. a video highlighting the Eco-Patent Commons: .