Patents constitute an important economic mechanism incentivising the development of technologies. Given the immediacy of the need for global access to effective emission cutting technologies, the role of patents requires further consideration in the general climate change mitigation discourse. This paper aims to address this issue, presenting arguments on the role of the patent system from general intellectual property literature, as well as insights from specialized technological fields. The authors find that although patents provide a strong economic incentive for innovation, they limit the further commercialization of mitigation technologies based on previously patented materials and thus hinder global access to mitigation solutions. Development of mitigation technologies, specifically of renewable energies and carbon capture storage, requires predominantly an improvement of existing technologies. Therefore, patents are seen to restrict development and are perceived as an obstacle to climate change mitigation. In order to achieve the targets set by COP21, the transfer of patented technologies is a necessity. However, patents are found to act as one factor that can severely restrict the dissemination of technologies globally. Given these findings, the merits of open-source/copy-left systems of intellectual property deserve further study, especially with regard to their applicability to climate change mitigation solutions.
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Raiser, K., Naims, H., & Bruhn, T. (2017). Corporatization of the climate? Innovation, intellectual property rights, and patents for climate change mitigation. Energy Research and Social Science, 27, 1-8. doi:10.1016/j.erss.2017.01.020.
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