According to the United Nations, 70-80% of the planet’s electricity must come from renewable energy by 2050 in order to satisfy the goals of the Paris Agreement. Currently, we get about 30% of our electricity from renewable resources, so we will need heroic effort to meet that 2050 goal.
There is growing concern that intellectual property (IP) laws will make this effort even more difficult. How can we balance fair IP laws with saving the planet?
Why IP laws are important
While IP laws are partly intended to rightly reward the patent holder, they also serve the more crucial role of funding further research and development to help patent holders further refine the technology patents they own and to drive new innovation. These ongoing advancements are critical to bringing us closer to the 2050 Paris Agreement goal.
The IP developed by these individuals can encompass design elements, data interpretation and analysis and software/algorithms. These are often hard-won breakthroughs, and the developers should be rewarded accordingly.
The existential urgency to deploy renewable energy systems
Juxtaposed with the philosophy of fair IP protection is the looming possibility that portions of the planet may become uninhabitable or unsuitable for agricultural development due to extreme heat, drought or recurring severe weather.
This urgency is most keenly felt in developing nations, most of whom made comparatively miniscule contributions to the climate crisis. These nations largely do not have the funds to license, purchase and construct desperately needed renewable energy systems.
Striking a balance
Though the numbers are improving, the initial lackluster deployment of COVID-19 vaccines to developing countries was perhaps a sign of how rich countries hoarding resources can hamper global progress towards a mutually beneficial goal.
In order to reduce the effects of global warming and prevent catastrophic human migration, renewable energy systems must be deployed in countries where potential profits may be unattractive, or even nonexistent, and the threat of IP theft is historically high.
The duty falls on the governments committed to the Paris Agreement to find a solution that will protect and encourage IP innovation, while ensuring that poor and vulnerable parts of the planet have access to this crucial technology before a rolling humanitarian disaster unfolds. It’s not going to be easy, but when has cross-industry and international IP law ever been easy?