January 14, 2008, 10:00 AM — A group of technology companies is offering to share some of its patents to
encourage the development of environmentally friendly technologies.
and bulk-mailing equipment manufacturer Pitney-Bowes
have together donated patents to the Eco-patent Commons, an organization set
up to share the patents for technology with environmental benefits.
Any organization willing to donate a patent for environmentally friendly technology
to the commons can join the group. The patents are made available for use by
members and nonmembers alike.
So far, patents pledged to the commons cover fields such as waste water treatment,
air purification, cell-phone recycling and reducing printer ink consumption.
IBM has pledged 27 patents, Pitney Bowes two, and Nokia and Sony one each.
The Eco-patent Commons will be administered by the World
Business Council for Sustainable Development, a group which brings together
CEOs in industries such as cement, electrical utilities, timber, mining and
The group wants businesses to donate patents for technologies that have a positive
environmental impact, but that are not related to their core business.
It hopes that access to patents in the Commons will enable businesses facing
environmental challenges that have already been solved by others to develop
cleaner, less energy-intensive products as a result.
The move is inspired by the success of the free and open-source software sector,
where the sharing information has resulted in the creation of many new products,
the group said.
Together, the companies apply for thousands of patents each year. IBM in particular
regularly tops the league tables for most filings with the U.S.
Patent and Trademark Office.