Griffith Hack Clean & Sustainable Technologies

Are clean energy patents a financial asset? by Griffith Hack

Most organisations file patents to protect and maximise the value of products and processes that they are planning to develop themselves. However some organisations instead aim to benefit by selling or licensing their patents to other parties.

Selling or licensing patents is a complex activity, and increasingly organisations are arising especially to manage this activity, either on a commission or brokerage basis, or by buying these patents themselves and seeking new buyers. Effectively these latter types of organisation become a type of investment bank, using patents as an investment asset rather than investments in other companies. These organisations were recently discussed by the Economist.

So what does this mean for innovators in the clean energy space? Clean energy is attracting a lot of money and interest at the moment. Many technologies are comparatively new, and it may be possible to file broad patents. Innovators who are developing the right products and filing the right patents may have an alternative means of commercialising their intellectual property; namely selling or licensing IP to patent brokers.

However innovators can be assured that such brokers will look very carefully at the quality of the patent applications and patents secured, as often the patent is the main asset being sold. Innovators need to be very careful about their patent applications, patent strategy and the prior art in their technology areas, and seek careful advice.

Mike Lloyd


Sydney Cleantech Network launch by Justin Blows
September 23, 2009, 10:00 am
Filed under: Feature | Tags: , , , ,

Last night I attended the Launch of the Sydney Cleantech network.  Griffith Hack is a proud supporter of the network.

The turn out was great, with a mix of cleantech start ups, VC’s, service providers and government representatives.

If your in NSW and interested in cleantech, you will probably find the right cleantech contacts through this network.

I was very pleased to hear speakers from several cleantech companies, all of which had a strong appreciation of IP and the need to develop their patent portfolio.

Justin Blows

Intellectual property and renewable Energy Technologies by Justin Blows

I came across this new & excellent report from Chatham House: Who owns our law carbon future?  Intellectual Property and Energy Technologies.

Firstly, let’s get the debate about whether patents are a barrier to the introduction of climate change mitigation technology to the developing world out of the way.  The report repeats others that the real issue is not the accessibility of technologies or the price of the patents, but the lack of capital and management in the developing world. Focusing on patents is a distraction from the main issues.  Similar arguments have been presented in report after report and I haven’t seen a credible response.  Please leave a comment if you have one!  Import tarrifs has also been cited as a problem elsewhere.

What jumped out at me was a great  discussion on common business strategies for using patents that we may see repeated in the growing renewable energy, or indeed any other cleantech, space, together with examples.

Enforcing patents is one business strategy.  The report cites the case of Samsung being sued by Texas instruments in the 1980s damaging its brand and blocking the US market to Samsung.  After vastly improving its patenting strategy the tables were turned and by the 1990’s Samsung was suing Texas instruments.  But the outcome of litigation is often uncertain.

Some of the multiple business strategies based around licensing may be a far better approach. Some business strategies include:

  • prototyping and licensing technologies;
  • granting a licence to a spin-out company;
  • divestiture licensing when a technology owner exits a business area;
  • controlled licensing to ration the flow of licenses to limit expansion of competitors;
  • pooling patents from multiple parties and sharing the licensing profits;
  • cross licensing technology in exchange to get access to technology you need;
  • establishing a technology standard based around the IP brought to the table by multiple parties, each piece of IP being essential to the standard
  • licencing to those you outsource production to;
  • license to influence the strategic development path of technologies; and
  • being a patent troll, that is enforcing your patents even though you have no intention to practise or develop the technology yourself, a somewhat contentious strategy.

The mobile telephone industry, for example, likes technology standards. In the case of the AirBus 380 the aircraft, the industry used patent pools and licensing for production.  I can see that these issues are going to be very important for areas such as, for example, clean coal were many large players are going to end up with large patent portfolios.

Justin Blows

Political heavy weights see value in strong clean IP by Justin Blows
June 24, 2009, 10:12 am
Filed under: News | Tags: , , , , ,

The issue of patents and climate change are rapidly rising up the political agenda.

I came across this interesting article written by Rep. F. James Sensenbrenner Jr., the ranking Republican on the House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming.


Mr Sensenbrenner argues very strongly for strong IP protection to protect innovators from from those that would take clean and sustainable technologies – such as clean and renewable energy sources – without any suitable consideration in return.  He believes that:

Now that international climate treaty negotiations are gaining momentum, China is leading the assault on the patent protections that are central in promoting the ingenuity, innovation and creativity that drive the economies of America and other developed countries.

Mr Sensenbrenner also states that China and other developing nations want developed nations to contribute 1% of their GDP to them so that they can buy clean and sustainable technologies at a price that they themselves set.

While the two sides are highly polarised on the issue of IP rights relating to climate change mitigation and adaption technologies, it appears that everyone agrees that patents are a powerful and flexible tool that can be used for the interests of innovators or alternatively the developing nations, depending on the policy framework in which they are used. 

This is a great example of how patents provide a strong legal basis to the problem of technology transfer, no matter what mechanism used.  Without patenting the clean technology in the first place its hard to see how it can be effectively transfered in any senario. 

Let’s hope both sides find a mutually agreeable solution so that we can get on with the real problem of tackling climate change.

Justin Blows