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Open hardware, open licenses, patents, climate change, and development: a query

Via the European Business Council for Sustainable Energy:

Julio Lambing:

As you know, the European Business Council for Sustainable Energy is
concerned with the question how eco-innovation, carbon-neutral and clean
energy technologies can gain a foothold in developing countries.
Therefore, for some time past we devote ourselves to initiating an Open
Source Hardware Initiative including a database for these technologies
which is to employ a model similar to the GNU (GPL) license.
At one of our workshops, the representative of a major technology
company pointed out that in various structurally weak developing
countries there is no effective protection of "intellectual property".
Thus, ruthless trend scouts can spot innovative inventions in these
countries (e.g. in Afirca and make them available to companies
in industrialised and threshold countries without sharing the benefits
with the innovators. Therefore, we were called upon to advocate the
strengthening of patent regimes in developing countries (with financial
and juridical support by industrialised countries) in order to safeguard
a just compensation for these innovators or communities.

We are no experts regarding the question if and how patent regimes are
effective in developing countries for local innovators and SMEs.
Therefore, we address you as an adept of the international discussion on
this topic.

In general, for years there is a discussion on whether patents are an
obstacle or a catalyst for the transfer of climate-friendly
technologies. At the international climate negotiations, speakers from
developing countries deplore the role of patents as an obstacle to the
diffusion of climate-friendly technologies. We, as representatives of
companies providing these technologies, are sceptical. Most
carbon-neutral technologies are not patent relevant any longer, and
there are providers of these technologies from developing countries in
the market as well, so there is no monopoly. Furthermore, the main
obstacle for employing climate-friendly technologies in developing
countries are lack of investment capital and lack of know-how regarding
available technologies and their maintenance. Patent-related problems we
could only identify concerning corrosion protection for offshore
windparks, the second generation of biofuels, CCS technology and,
perhaps, some recent developments in the sphere of photovoltaics. We
represent a considerable number of green companies which fought long and
hard for their technologies and deem it unfair that, of all things,
these technologies are drawn into the patent debate -- in contrast to
those which polluted the Earth for decades. (Nevertheless, we deem it
important to further eco-innovation on a voluntary base employing a true
Open Source approach. Support, also financial support, would always be
welcome ;-) )

Innovative climate protection technologies will be sought-after economic
goods in the future. What is your estimate regarding the status quo of
the international discussion on the strengthening of patent regimes in
developing countries - or, rather, mechanisms for safeguarding
compensation for innovations like "access and benefit sharing (ABS)"
discussed in the biodiversity debate?

Please feel free to forward these questions to other experts.
Thanks a lot for your help and best regards

Julio Lambing

Managing Director
e5 - European Business Council for Sustainable Energy

Hauptstrasse 43
D-61184 Karben
Fon: +49 6039 9291958
Fax: +49 6039 9291961

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