Congress Backs Strong Green Patents in Climate Change Talks

The U.S. House of Representatives voted unanimously last week to pass an amendment to the Foreign Relations Authorization Act that establishes U.S. policy in opposition to any global climate change treaty that would weaken intellectual property rights.  (see the National Journal article here)

The bill increases resources and training for enforcement of intellectual property rights.  Under the bill, the U.S. Secretary of State would appoint ten new IP attaches to serve in U.S. embassies or other diplomatic missions.  The bill gives priority placement to countries with particularly poor IP regimes. 

The amendment, offered by Reps. Rick Larsen (D-Wash.) and Mark Kirk (R-Ill.), and passed 432-0, provides an unequivocal statement that U.S. policy favors strong IP rights for clean technologies as part of any climate change treaty:

it shall be the policy of the United States that, with respect to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, the President, the Secretary of State and the Permanent Representative of the United States to the United Nations should prevent any weakening of, and ensure robust compliance with and enforcement of, existing international legal requirements as of the date of the enactment of this Act for the protection of intellectual property rights related to energy or environmental technology. . .

The amendment is a timely policy message as diplomats are preparing for key negotiations as part of the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) in Copenhagen in December.

The amendment comes on the heels of the launch of the IDEA Coalition, an alliance of business and industry leaders formed to educate policymakers and the public about the importance of strong IP protections in promoting clean tech innovation. 

One of the Coalition’s first orders of business was to urge Congress and the Obama administration to maintain strong IP protection for clean tech innovators as the U.S. engages in international talks related to the UNFCCC.  Looks like a quick success for the Coalition right out of the box. 

According to Carl Horton, Chief IP Counsel for GE, the amendment was in large part a result of the IDEA Coalition’s activities.  He told me the Coalition briefed Congressmen Larsen and Kirk “regarding the risk to IP protection for green technology at the UNFCCC negotiations.”

Advocates of strong IP protection are pleased with the Larsen amendment and the message it sends about the U.S. position on IP rights in clean technologies.  Horton thinks the amendment “sends a powerful message about the necessity for strong IP protection to drive investment and innovation in new green technologies and the need to endorse such IP protection as the means to protect the US jobs created by such green technologies.”

Eric Lane Avatar

Eric Lane

Eric Lane, the founder and principal of Green Patent Law, is an intellectual property lawyer and registered U.S. patent attorney in New York and is a member of the bar in New York and California. Eric has more than two decades of experience working with wind, solar PV, CSP, biofuels, and geothermal, energy storage technologies, carbon capture and sequestration, medical devices, data communications, mechanical, chemical, internet and software.