The University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business, through its Batten Institute, released a briefing in April of this year covering the status of innovation in “green technology” as expressed in global patenting activity. The analysis defines “green technology” or “greentech” as “products and services that reduce energy and material consumption, waste and pollution.” According to the authors, the patents studied utilized the World Intellectual Property Organization’s classification system for alternative energy and covers the sectors of “solar, wind, geothermal, biofuel, biomass, fuel cell, hydro, synthetic gas, integrated gasification combined cycle (IGCC), man-made waste, mechanical power from muscle energy, natural heat and waste heat.”
Examining patents filed in the world’s three largest patent offices - U.S. (USPTO), Europe (EPO) and Japan (JPO), the study concludes that the U.S. leads in greentech patents granted since 1990 (67,432) with Japan second (53,217) and Germany third (36,328). It should be noted that the Chinese patent authority (SIPO) was excluded from the study even though the number of Chinese greentech patents filed exceeds that of all other nations. The reason given is that virtually all such Chinese greentech patents were filed by Chinese nationals in their home country only. According to the authors, this puts into question the utility of those domestic patents given that no foreign protection is available for them coupled with China’s poor record of intellectual property protection in its own country.
The analysis reaches other interesting conclusions. Among them is the fact while in terms of sheer numbers of patents granted, solar leads the pack by far since 1990, fuel cell technology has shot up by 591% since that time in light of “growing investment in electric vehicles.” The briefing also highlights disparities between patent output and greentech technology adoption; i.e., a number of developing economies lead in greentech deployment even if their contribution to the development of such technologies lags far behind.
Companies engaged in researching and developing green technologies are motivated to utilize systems, tools and technologies to help streamline their innovation activities and continue their contribution to this important industry.