Intellectual Property (IP) rights and the environment have been put in the limelight, being the chosen topic for this year’s World IP Day. The theme this year is ‘innovate for  green future’. We already discussed how trade marks can support sustainability, and now will take a closer look at the issue of IP and climate change.

Innovation is at the centre of creating a green future as it would bring us closer to the solutions we require to address the climate crisis. In this regard, having an IP system which is both balanced and robust can support innovation and therefore, the environment. This article gives an overview of the various IP rights and the role they play in promoting environmental sustainability through an eco-friendly viewpoint, to help mitigate climate change in the long run.

The patent system encourages innovation by rewarding inventors with a limited monopoly over their creations. When this system is used to create eco-friendly technologies, solutions to environmental issues can emerge. In this regard, the patent system encourages inventors to create and develop inventions that provide solutions or bring us closer to a solution. There have been several debates as to whether the system actually promotes or hampers innovation. Nevertheless, instruments within the patent system itself, such as a patent pool, have the effect of encouraging the emergence of new technologies and can promote their distribution and use.

Design rights can also contribute towards the environment when they support the sustainable use of resources through optimization. Designers’ creativity can be invested towards producing sustainable products which are both attractive to consumers and beneficial for the environment. When eco-friendly products are more attractive to consumers, sales increase and can indirectly help the environment by attracting consumers which might not be as environmentally conscious but drawn to the product for its appealing design.

As considered in our earlier article, certain trade marks play a role in identifying and promoting environmentally-conscious brands. They act to support the climate change cause as well as to create awareness in this regard. Moreover, the trade mark system supports the increase and development of businesses which focus on environmental sustainability by allowing them to further promote eco-friendly products and services.

Similarly, geographical indications (GIs) can also encourage sustainable use of natural resources as producers of goods which qualify for GI protection can ensure that sustainability considerations are included in the standards and regulations surrounding the production of these goods, including harvesting practices. These practices would then need to be complied with by all producers wishing to label their products with the registered GI. This would, in turn result in stronger and more resilient plants and farms which are more sustainable and can ensure global food security.

By way of concluding, it is clear that the IP system rewards creativity and innovation. Taking into consideration the various IP rights mentioned in this article, these two elements can be crucial in addressing the climate emergency.

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