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Differentiated Intellectual Property Regimes for Environmental and Climate Technologies

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  • Keith Maskus

Abstract

Prior to the Copenhagen meeting on developing a new framework for climate-change policy there were sharp differences between the positions of developed and developing countries regarding the role of intellectual property rights (IPRs) in fostering international technology transfer (ITT). Expanding effective ITT is central to meeting needs for acquiring and adapting environmentally sound technologies (ESTs) in poor nations. Policymakers in developed economies generally view IPRs, particularly patents and trade secrets, as positive and critical inducements to ITT, while those in developing countries often describe them as sources of market power that impede access to new technology. This report reviews the economic logic of these positions and reviews available empirical evidence. The relationships among IPRs, innovation, ITT and local adaptation are complex and neither of the basic views described captures them well. Policy should be based on a more nuanced view. In that regard, to date there is little systematic evidence that patents and other IPRs restrict access to ESTs, which largely exist in sectors based on mature technologies in which there are numerous substitutes among global competitors. This situation may change as new technologies based on biotechnologies and synthetic fuels, which are likely to be more dependent on patent protection, become more prominent. At present, however, there is little evidence to support significant limitations on the issuance and use of IPRs in this area. In particular, it is unlikely that an international agreement on a compulsory licensing regime could achieve significant ITT benefits, while it may raise considerable costs. However, there may be scope for beneficial differentiation in patent rights, which is the primary subject of the report. Among these elements include ex ante extensions of patent terms tied to licensing commitments, expedited patent examinations in ESTs, investments in patent transparency and landscaping efforts, and facilitation of voluntary patent pools. The report argues that such changes are unlikely to achieve significant gains in innovation and ITT unless they are accompanied by broader policy approaches, including publicly financed fiscal supports for local technology needs and adaptation. Perhaps most important are finding means to raise the global costs of using carbon-based energy resources and improving the climate for investments in poor countries. Avant le Sommet de Copenhague sur l’élaboration d’un nouveau cadre d’action pour la lutte contre le changement climatique, pays développés et pays en développement nourrissaient des conceptions divergentes quant à l’incidence des droits de propriété intellectuelle (DPI) sur la promotion du transfert international de technologies. Or, pour répondre aux besoins d’acquisition et d’adaptation de technologies écologiquement rationnelles dans les pays pauvres, il est indispensable d’accroître l’efficacité de ces transferts. Les décideurs des pays développés considèrent généralement les DPI, en particulier les brevets et les secrets de fabrique, comme des incitations positives essentielles pour le transfert international de technologies, tandis que ceux des pays en développement les présentent souvent comme des sources de pouvoir de marché qui les empêchent d’accéder aux nouvelles technologies. Le présent rapport examine la logique économique de ces positions et passe en revue les données empiriques disponibles. Entre les DPI, l’innovation, le transfert international de technologies et l’adaptation locale, il existe une relation complexe dont aucune des deux conceptions très générales évoquées précédemment ne rend véritablement compte. Les politiques publiques doivent se fonder sur un point de vue plus nuancé. A ce jour, on ne dispose guère d’éléments solides attestant que les brevets et autres DPI restreignent l’accès aux technologies écologiquement rationnelles, car ces droits concernent essentiellement des secteurs basés sur des technologies matures pour lesquelles la concurrence mondiale offre de nombreux produits de substitution. La donne pourrait changer au fur et à mesure de la montée en puissance de nouvelles technologies faisant appel aux biotechnologies et aux carburants de synthèse, qui risquent d’être davantage protégés par des brevets. Pour l’heure toutefois, il n’y a guère d’arguments incitant à limiter notablement l’attribution et l’utilisation des DPI dans ce domaine. En particulier, un accord international sur un régime de licences obligatoires ne serait probablement pas très efficace en termes de transfert international de technologies, alors qu’il risquerait d’imposer des coûts considérables. En revanche, il serait possible d’apporter diverses modifications aux conditions attachées aux brevets, ce qui constitue le principal thème de ce rapport. Parmi les possibilités figurent la prolongation ex ante de la durée de validité du brevet assortie d’engagements en matière d’octroi de licences, l’examen accéléré des demandes de brevets visant les technologies écologiquement rationnelles, les investissements dans les efforts de transparence et de cartographie des brevets, les incitations à créer des communautés volontaires de brevets. D’après le rapport, des changements de ce type ne sauraient procurer des avantages significatifs en termes d’innovation et de transfert international de technologies s’ils ne s’accompagnent pas de stratégies publiques plus larges, comprenant des aides publiques pour répondre aux besoins en technologies et assurer leur adaptation à l’échelle locale. Mais l’essentiel est peut-être de trouver les moyens d’augmenter le coût d’utilisation des ressources énergétiques à base de carbone et d’améliorer le climat de l’investissement dans les pays pauvres.

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Bibliographic Info

Paper provided by OECD Publishing in its series OECD Environment Working Papers with number 17.

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Date of creation: 05 May 2010
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Handle: RePEc:oec:envaaa:17-en

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Keywords: environment; innovation; technology; climate change; intellectual property rights; droit de propriété intellectuelle; changement climatique; technologies; innovation; environnement;

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Cited by:
  1. Ambec, Stefan & Cohen, Mark A. & Elgie, Stewart & Lanoie, Paul, 2011. "The Porter Hypothesis at 20: Can Environmental Regulation Enhance Innovation and Competitiveness?," Discussion Papers dp-11-01, Resources For the Future.

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