IBM Leads Program to Share Clean Technologies

IBM Leads Program to Share Clean Technologies

As of today, 31 patents that were previously the sole domain of IBM, Nokia, Pitney-Bowes and Sony have been released for the public good. These patents mark the launch of the Eco-Patent Commons, and the result of nearly two years of discussion and planning.

Spearheaded by IBM, the Eco-Patent Commons (EPC) aims to bring together a collection of patents covering new technologies, processes and ideas that can be used to address a wide range of environmental problems. By making these patents available to the public, the companies hope to spur innovation, as well as create new business opportunities with the resulting ideas.

"The premise here is that, in the environmental arena, sharing knowledge and technology has the great potential to address the world's problems," Wayne Balta, IBM's vice president of Environmental Affairs, told GreenBiz, "and there exists no organized way today to do this on a global basis."

Balta explained that businesses may hold patents that do not serve as an essential source of income to them, and that by sharing them with others on a global basis, these patents can help people develop in a more sustainable way. Additionally, for those companies pledging their patents, this information-sharing might have additional business benefits.

"This can be a catalyst for further innovation and collaboration," Balta added. "It [also] becomes an efficient channel for sharing this knowledge that you have with others, so that you make known to others that you have demonstrable expertise on a given technical problem and you stand ready to work with them to help diffuse it further."

The EPC will be hosted by the World Business Council on Sustainable Development (WBCSD), and any company or individual can join the Commons by pledging one or more patents.

Of the first 31 patents released to the commons, IBM is the originator of 27 of them, Pitney-Bowes holds two, and Nokia and Sony each hold one. Among the topics addressed by these patents are ways to recycle cell phone components at the end-of-life stage into new electronic devices, a method for replacing liquid solvents with ozone gas as a surface cleaner, and a shock-absorbing packaging insert made of corrugated cardboard takes up less space and is lighter, biodegradable and recyclable.

The Eco-Patent Commons is available online at: http://www.wbcsd.org/web/epc.