Patent knowledge and sustainable solutions

 Sustainability Keyvisual

Happy New Year!

Another year over and a new one beginning. It's that time of the year again when many of us take the chance to reflect and start anew, sometimes with the help of New Year's resolutions. Fighting climate change and working towards a "greener" future are hot topics in today's world. It's no secret that innovation will be key to addressing these challenges at all levels - from innovative solutions to everyday problems to sophisticated technologies that could change the world. In this issue, we'd like to share with you how some of the more interesting patent applications promote sustainability.

Are you looking for some ideas to make your life a little "greener"? Then take a look at this patent application for an edible, vegan, wafer-like coffee cup. And if you don't feel like eating the cup when you're finished, don't worry, it's 100% biodegradable! Or how about pieces of edible cutlery and tableware which only start to get soggy after 40 to 50 minutes, time enough to allow you to finish your food? And if that's not enough to inspire you, what about a patent application for plantable, environmentally-friendly chop-sticks? Once you are done using them, plant them and watch the seeds inside them grow into beautiful plants.

Every day we see more and more innovative ideas for sustainability. The European Inventor Award has recognised some outstanding contributions, including an invention by Austrian inventors Klaus Feichtinger and Manfred Hackl in 2019. Based around the concept of "re-use, reduce, recycle" they invented a new, improved way of sorting and recycling plastic waste and turning it into pellets ready for industrial (re-)use (visit our website for more information). In 2015, French inventor Ludwik Leibler was presented with the European Inventor Award for a new type of plastic called "vitrimer". With the ability to repair itself, vitrimer helps to extend the lifetime of plastic products and to reduce plastic pollution in our oceans (go to our website for more information).

The EPO is fully committed to sustainability and continually supports sustainable innovation. We plan to reach carbon neutrality by 2030 as part of our Strategic Plan 2023. We regularly publish studies relating to sustainability (see our latest study on Patents for tomorrow's plastics - global innovation trends in recycling, circular design and alternative sources), and we've also made it easier to retrieve patent documents that cover sustainable technologies (with the creation of a classification scheme for technical attributes of technologies that can be loosely referred to as climate change mitigation).

We are not the only ones capturing trends in green innovation. The OECD's green patents database uses data from our PATSTAT database and aims to collect information on green technology development, international collaboration and technology diffusion using in-depth search strategies. By comparing environmental technology growth with growth across all technologies, the OECD is able to identify those countries with comparably higher growth in environmentally-related patents. You can also use the OECD's technology development dashboard to see the fastest-growing green technologies (including wind energy and electric and hybrid vehicles). The WIPO GREEN database, on the other hand, lets you match environmental problems with sustainable solutions in the areas of energy, water, farming and forestry, pollution and waste, transportation, products, materials and processes as well as in building and construction. Here, data is provided by the users themselves, as well as by selected organisations and from green patents.

We all have a part to play in supporting global sustainability efforts. We can start by using sustainable solutions in our everyday lives, or by exploring these databases to better understand and assess sustainability. Simple actions can go a long way and every little counts. After all, there is no planet B.

Maybe something to add to our list of New Year's resolutions?

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