Griffith Hack Clean & Sustainable Technologies

IP helps solar company by Justin Blows
January 23, 2009, 8:19 am
Filed under: News

WIPO Magazine has published the article Climate Change: Hot Property – IP Strategies in the Solar Tech Sector. The article discusses how patents helped Spanish solar company ISOFOTON commercialise and bring its technology to the market.

Key points from the article include:

  • Intellectual property (IP) is central to Isofoton’s business and R&D strategies
  • Companies should as far as possible generate their own IP so as to be independent from the competition in generating new technology and ahead of competition in the applications market
  • Licencing in technology can be very useful
  • Ensure 100% access, or preferably ownership, from all IP generated from joint ventures
  • Try to negotiate using your IP, especially patents, rather than entering a full blown dispute
An installation of Isofoton solar panels

An installation of Isofoton solar panels

The World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) has made noises suggesting the promotion of Climate Change Mitigation Technologies by the patent systems is becoming a primary goal.  WIPO will discuss the associated challenges and issues at its Conference on Intellectual Property and Global Challenges on 13-14 July.  The conference will serve as a global forum for discussion of some of the major challenges in relation to IP the world faces today.  I’d be keen to hear from you if you are planning to attend this conference.



Dr Justin Blows – Boardroom Radio Australia Broadcast by Griffith Hack
January 22, 2009, 8:42 am
Filed under: Podcast & Media

Toyota Interview


Dr Justin Blows presented a webcast on the Toyota Prius and its approximately 2000 patents on the rise. Dr Justin Blows, Patent Attorney at Griffith Hack, Clean and Sustainable Technologies Group – Boardroom Radio webcast

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Australian scientists discover biomass & biochar benefits by Justin Blows
January 20, 2009, 9:56 am
Filed under: Feature | Tags: , , , , ,

The first Asia-Pacific Biochar Conference will take place on the Gold Coast from 17–19 May 2009.

Heating biomass to generate synthetic gases has proven to be a great way to generate electricity without adding net greenhouse gas emissions.  But recently, scientists have realised that the bi-product, biochar, when added to soil both boasts soil fertility and sequesters carbon over the long term. 

Professor Tim Flannery has advocated the great potential of biochar’s multiple benefits. ‘The biochar approach provides a unique powerful solution, for it allows us to address food security, the fuel crisis and the climate problem, and all in an immensely practical manner.’

‘With the appropriate political and technical recognition, promotion and adoption, it will change our world forever, and very much for the better,’ he wrote.

Read more here.

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Griffith Hack client Geodynamics a winner by Justin Blows
January 20, 2009, 9:28 am
Filed under: News | Tags: , , , ,

Griffith Hack client Geodynamics has been named a winner by IEEE Spectrum magazine for the best technologies in 2009.  Geodynamics is the world leader in electrical power generation using engineered geothermal systems.


Here is an earlier post on geothermal power.


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Griffith Hack client NEP installs solar air conditioner by Justin Blows
January 20, 2009, 9:07 am
Filed under: News | Tags: , , ,

NEP SOLAR, in partnership with Australia’s Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organization (CSIRO) and Bovis Lend Lease Construction, is set to conduct solar thermal cooling installations for the major redevelopment and expansion project of one of the largest shopping centers in Newcastlle Australia, The Charlestown Square.


NEP SOLAR will use its parabolic trough collectors called PolyTrough 1200, a small roof-mountable parabolic trough collector developed for high performance up to 200°C to air condition the shopping center using absorption chillers for the solar cooling project.

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Australia poor at patenting cleantech by Justin Blows
January 19, 2009, 3:00 pm
Filed under: News | Tags: , , , ,

Clean and sustainable technologies (“cleantech”) have grown much faster than other technologies since the signing of the Kyoto protocol in 1997 – but not in Australia. That’s the conclusion from a new report based on patent data, titled Invention and transfer of climate change mitigation technologies on a global scale: A study drawing on patent data.


Global patent filings in cleantech grew 9% per year between 1998 and the end of the analyzed period 2003. However, this growth was not evident in Australia and the USA – a situation attributed to the governments of these countries historically having little regard for climate change. The USA still has not ratified the Kyoto protocol and Australia ratified it only last year. The Australian Government has since embraced climate change mitigation and has pro-climate policies including renewable energy targets, an emissions trading scheme and is funding The Australian Solar Institute and The International Carbon Capture and Storage Institute

Based on the historical patent data and the change in political climate, Australia is positioned for a dramatic increase in cleantech patent filings. In the analyzed period, Australia accounted for less cleantech inventions than Brazil with 1.1% of world inventions, while Japan accounted for a massive 40.8%. Indeed, if Australia does not increase its patent filings it will continue to loose out on opportunities to export clean and sustainable technologies during a time when cleantech imports must increase. Hopefully, Australia’s cleantech industry & researchers will embrace a patenting culture to ensure Australia’s international competitiveness and accelerate the transfer of technologies to the developing world.

Interestingly, the Kyoto Protocol has not accelerated technology transfer, especially from developed to developing nations. Most, 75%, of the transfer of patented technology is from one developed nation to another.


Toyota Prius: 2000 patents and counting by Justin Blows

The technology in the Toyota Prius is protected by 2,000 patent applications, a third of which are for the new third generation Prius(Have a look at this more recent blog entry for more details on hybrid vehicle patents) . The Prius, a petrol-electric hybrid vehicle, is the most fuel efficient car of any size on, for example, US roads.  It has a reported fuel efficiency of 3.9L per 100km.  Being an early mover in hybrid technology, Toyota has secured a lot of protected IP to significant commercial advantage

Leading technologies, like the Prius, warrant comprehensive patent protection

Leading technologies, like the Prius, warrant comprehensive patent protection

Toyota’s strategy has made it far too risky to copy the Prius without Toyota’s blessing.  Having this many patents makes it very difficult for another manufacturer to copy the Prius and escape liability.  To illustrate this point, we can consider an example product protected by a mere 20 patent applications in a particular country.   For a 50% chance of a competitor being found not the infringe all 20 patents, the competitor has to be confident that it has more than a 96% chance of a court finding no infringement in each of the 20 patents – a very tall order!  The Prius has many more patent applications than 20, and thus it is exponentially harder to fight Toyota’s patents.  And this assumes that the other manufacturer can even cover the legal costs to contest multiple patents in court – patent cases costing more than a million dollars are not infrequent.

Given the poor odds, Toyota’s competitors are far more likely to seek licenses for Toyota’s patents rather than risk going to court, placing Toyota at a very significant commercial advantage.  Toyota could, for example, simply deny the technology to the competitors stopping them in their tracks.  Alternatively, Toyota could license the technology for money or some other consideration. Another possibility is that Toyota cross licenses the technology, giving the competitor access to the technology in return for access to a valuable and patented technology of the competitor.  Cross licensing has been a very successful strategy in the computer hardware industry, for example, which greatly accelerated the diffusion of personal computer technologies through the industry.  Patents are known to provide legal clarity and certainty for technology transfer, such as cross licensing deals, promoting technology diffusion.

The Prius is a complicated machine comprising thousands of components, and many technologies are required to put it together.  This probably explains the large number of patent applications, at least in part. Complicated technologies, like the Prius, are unlikely to be covered by a single ‘killer patent’.  Traditionally, this situation is good for industry because no single player is likely to dominate; technology transfer deals are common.  It will be interesting, however, to see what happens in this extreme case where Toyota has accumulated such a massive treasure chest of patents early on in the development of the technology.

Clearly the hybrid vehicle patent landscape is filling fast.  Toyota’s competitors (most notably Honda, who produce the Insight) are going to have to move quickly if they want to prevent being locked out of the market.  If I was Honda’s patent attorney I would be pushing hard for, amongst other things:

  • regular patent watches to identify infringement risks;
  • an aggressive patent filing strategy to build up a war chest to counter Toyota’s patent portfolio; and
  • patent landscaping to identify strategic technology areas that Toyota has not covered, and target these areas for aggressive patent filings to gain strategic advantage.


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