Trilateral Symposium on IP and the environment

18 March 2022

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The EPO made a key contribution to the Trilateral Symposium on IP and environmental issues held on 17 March 2022. The online event was organised by the Japanese Patent Office (JPO) in co-operation with the EPO and the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). It explored the role of innovation and the patent system in reaching carbon neutrality, and demonstrated how the innovative use of IP could support a green agenda.

The Trilateral Offices are working together for a sustainable patent system. For this symposium, the first Trilateral event on environmental issues, the speakers included senior officials from the Trilateral Offices and the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO), as well as inventors, industry representatives of green technologies from Europe, Japan and the USA. The programme illustrated challenges and opportunities for innovators in the field of green technologies, addressed critical environmental issues and highlighted contributions to carbon neutrality.

Strengthening international co-operation on green innovation

Steve Rowan, EPO Vice President Patent Granting Process, joined JPO Commissioner Mori Kiyoshi, and acting Director of the USPTO Drew Hirshfeld, in opening the symposium. The patent offices underlined the positive role that IP and the patent system play in addressing the shift to carbon neutrality. Then, WIPO Director General Daren Tang delivered a keynote speech and stressed the importance of WIPO Green and other initiatives.

Highlights of the event included a presentation by Orcan Energy, a European based clean tech SME. The company develops, manufactures and markets efficient energy solutions based on "Organic Rankine Cycle" technology to convert waste heat into electricity.  Having spun off from the Technical University of Munich Orcan Energy has an increasing IP portfolio which includes more than 170 granted patents in 26 patent families. Their presentation underlined the critical role of patents in attracting funding, successfully negotiating with partners and expanding internationally.

Mitsuru Izumu, President and Founder of Euglena, spoke on the company's innovation in manufacturing  SUSTEO (Sustainable Oil), a renewable-diesel fuel based on used cooking oil and the microalgae euglena.

Stephen Katsaros, CEO and Founder of Nokero, shared the story of the development of his innovative solar lamp Nokero (No Kerosene), which won him the 2013 USPTO Patent for Humanity Award. Katsaros pointed out the importance of IP protection for inventions supporting humanitarian causes.

The final session featured a panel discussion between representatives from the Trilateral Offices and Trilateral industry associations.  WIPO Assistant Director General Edward Kwakwa moderated as the panellists discussed whether there was enough innovation in carbon mitigating technologies, how IP could facilitate market entry for these inventions, and the role of patents in securing investments in green technologies.

The relationship between IP and sustainability will again be a key topic at the upcoming IP5 high-level meetings in June.

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