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Online tool for clean energy technologies patents

The European Patent Office (EPO) has created a free online search tool providing unrestricted access to all patent documents related to clean energy technologies (CETs) worldwide.

The tool puts some 700,000 patent documents in the clean energy technology field at the public's fingertips. It was launched alongside a patent-based study on the emergence and distribution of clean energy technologies across the globe, jointly conducted by the EPO, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) and the International Centre for Trade and Sustainable Development (ICTSD).

One of the objectives of both the study and information tool is to create transparency on ownership and dissemination of relevant climate change mitigation technologies, and enhance knowledge and understanding of decision makers on the principles and mechanisms of the patent system.

EPO President Benoît Battistelli, says: "Patents provide information about existing technologies, which would otherwise not be public. Being able to access that information quickly and easily can greatly enhance society’s collective knowledge on CETs and how they can be used to combat climate change."

The study

Based on an initial taxonomy including renewable energy, biofuels and some specific 'clean coal' technologies, some 400,000 patent documents were at first identified and formed the basis of the study. This effort was then extended to cover other technologies in the energy generation field with climate change mitigation potential.

Covering developments until 2007, the study shows that although Japan, USA, Germany, Korea, France and the UK are the source of almost 80% of all clean energy technology innovations, countries such as China and Brazil, but also smaller economies from America and Europe have their niches of technological excellence.

Transfer of clean energy technologies to developing countries, however, remains low in the period under review, as a dedicated licensing survey in the context of the investigation reveals.

The study clearly shows that the surge of patenting activity in clean energy technologies coincided with the adoption of the Kyoto Protocol in 1997, providing a strong indication that political decisions can be important in creating a framework to stimulate the development of technologies which are considered to be crucial to the efforts to address climate change.

The statistical analysis of the data shows that patenting rates in the selected clean energy technologies have increased roughly 20% per year since then, outpacing traditional fossil fuels and nuclear energy technologies.

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