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The interface between Intellectual Property and Environmental law

Intellectual Property (IP) and Environmental Law are two hot fields of law. They are more aware of each other and are cooperating for the purpose of attaining the sustainable development goals (SDG) set up in 2015 by the United Nations General Assembly. There is a rapidly growing interaction between IP law and environmental law, since they have shared a common interest in the preservation of biodiversity, the development of the green technologies and in addressing the climate change. This interaction aims to foster economic growth while preserving the quality of the environment for future generations. Technologies benefiting from IP law protections are profoundly affecting the subject matter and methods of environmental legal practice; also, environmental issues and laws can affect IP law and practice since the environmental regulation tools promote the high-quality development of green technologies and restrict the use of harmful technologies. Environmental regulation is an important means to protect the ecological environment and develop the green technologies, and technological innovation and green technologies are an important measure to reduce pollution emissions and promote cleaner production.

The precise nature of the interaction between international intellectual property and environmental protection was reflected in Article 16(5) of the United Nations Biodiversity Treaty of 1993 “Biodiversity Treaty” that recognized "that patents and other intellectual property rights may have an influence on the implementation of this Convention," and obligated parties to the Convention to "cooperate in this regard subject to national legislation and international law in order to ensure that such rights are supportive of and do not run counter to its objectives related to the protection of the environment." This treaty has developed a consensus among scientists, world bodies, anthropologists, and conservationists, that the best way to capture the benefits of biodiversity is through a system of intellectual property, environmental, and contractual protection designed to harmonize the goals of development and conservation by building an international framework for sustainable biodiversity prospecting. Economist has been increasingly interested in the mechanisms that encourage the development and diffusion of new green technologies. The green technology concept or environmentally sound technologies (ESTs) was developed by the UN Rio Declaration on Environment & Development in 1992 as a meaningful response to climate change. Green technologies involve energy efficiency, recycling, safety and health concerns, renewable energy and many more. EST are also technologies that have the potential for significantly improved environmental performance relative to other technologies. Specifically, they “protect the environment, are less polluting, use resources in a sustainable manner, recycle more of their wastes and products, and handle all residual wastes in a more environmentally acceptable way than the technologies for which they are substitutes”. According to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), ESTs allow to reduce emissions of greenhouse gases or to capture them, and allow users to adjust to negative effects of climate change, or exploit positive ones.

IP laws can significantly further the development and diffusion of ESTs and green technologies and play a key role in addressing many global environmental issues. IP laws are providing incentives for the acceleration of the invention of green technologies that are playing a key role in addressing the issues of energy security, energy access, climate change and preservation of biodiversity. Technological innovation and its protection by IP laws is necessary to maintain and improve our standard of living. Intellectual property rights, in particular patents and trade secrets, fundamentally affect the quality and availability of innovative ideas and products, and are therefore extremely important in achieving sustainable development, ensuring human health, and protecting the environment. The main objective of IP laws is to encourage the innovation. This objective was reflected on many levels in the renewable energy sector. As we know, renewable energy sources constitute an increasingly important part of the energy mix, and the business case for investment in the development of renewable energies technologies, in particular solar and wind power, grows ever stronger in the last decade. IP law plays a key role in enabling companies to protect their investments in research and development, to maximize business returns and differentiate themselves in a fiercely competitive market. IP law play a key role as an incentive for innovation in market-based economies. They allow technology investors to capture the value of innovation. The IP rights contain valuable information for the development of new technologies that promote the protection of the environment. Patent, copyright, trademark and design right protection of names and logos are necessary for the development of the green technologies or ESTs. The creation, protection and exploitation of intellectual property provides fundamental support for green industries’ objectives at each stage of the cycle: managing reputation and brand alongside deployment of technology.

In conclusion, there is a significant positive relationship between environmental regulation and technological innovation of green technologies, and there is a positive relationship between industrial scale and technological innovation. The reason is that the production and operation of green technologies or ESTs need specific production process equipment, and the environmental regulations play a positive role in promoting their production process innovation. Therefore, countries should improve the environmental regulation standards, gradually strengthen the regulation intensity, and force the technological innovation. Also, Industrial enterprises are encouraged to carry out product innovation in research and development design, production equipment, marketing services, and other aspects to produce green technologies with high added value, increase research and development design investment, and upgrade existing production process equipment. This interaction between the efforts of the industrial enterprise and the governments at the national and international level will realize in coordination with performance growth the sustainability.


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