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January 14, 2008

The Eco-Patent Commons

Today I get to share some very exciting news.

Way back in 2006, participants in GIO deep dive discussions on environmental sustainability hatched a great idea. They proposed a place (virtual, of course) where companies could openly share intellectual property and patents that could have a positive effect on the environment. They called it the Eco-Patent Commons.

Well I’m pleased to announce that today the Eco-Patent Commons has become a reality. Along with the World Business Council for Sustainable Development, and in partnership with Nokia, Pitney Bowes, and Sony, IBM officially announced the Eco-Patent Commons, hosted here at the WBCSD web site.

It’s a simple enough idea, really (as most of the best ideas are.) The thinking is that many companies are protecting environmentally beneficial IP. But if that information were made public, then the benefits could be multiplied many times over. Not only that, but when IP gets widely distributed, it gets iterated and improved. And the costs to take advantage of those innovations go down for each individual company. Just look at open source software.

So there is an open invitation to companies (and individuals) to share, royalty-free, their environmentally responsible patents with the world. The patents can pertain to just about any aspect of environmental consideration, such as energy conservation, fuel efficiency, pollution prevention, materials reuse or reductions, and recycling opportunities. For example, IBM has pledged a cost-effective, shock-absorbing packaging tray that uses 100-percent biodegradable fiberboard and no glues. Nokia is contributing a patent designed to help companies reuse mobile phones by transforming them into other useful products, like cameras or monitoring devices.

You get the idea. The point of all this is that when you get hundreds of smart people representing the right organizations, good things happen. So go to the web site, browse the patents, and see if there is something that you or your organization can use, or improve upon, to make a difference.

And stay tuned for an update on the 2008 Global Innovation Outlook topics. It’s going to be another big year.

January 14, 2008 in Security and Society | Permalink

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