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The boom in green technology patents: what’s behind it, and how can businesses profit?

Photo by César Couto on Unsplash

From the rollout of huge wind turbines and sleek electric vehicles, to the growing popularity of business practices focused on the environment and net zero, it’s clear that the planet is in the midst of a sustainability driven transition.

Today, the market for green technologies is estimated to be at $61bn (£49bn) and is expected to increase to $417bn (£337bn) by 2030. But this incredible growth would be in jeopardy if companies, inventors, researchers and designers were not confident that their time and money was spent well. Protecting and promoting this creative surge is the (almost) intangible ecosystem of intellectual property (IP).

Companies under the microscope
Governments and investors are keeping an eye on how businesses are navigating this uncharted but vibrant world of green innovation, with product launches and corporate decisions viewed through the prism of ESG (environment, social and governance) standards.

Transparency is clearly a good thing, but it also presents corporations with challenges, forcing them to make tough decisions on everything from the products they manufacture to pricing, workplace culture and investment.

And underpinning it all is IP.

“IP is the beating heart of a thriving business model, whatever the industry,” says Robyn Merry, patent attorney at IP law firm Dennemeyer & Associates. “The various types of rights encompassed within IP – such as patents, trademarks, designs, copyrights, and more – each offer unique contributions that serve as the bedrock for sustainable growth and success.”

Defining what’s “sustainable” can be tricky, given how broad the topic is, but the United Nations’ 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) are a good place to start. A key part of the UN’s 2030 agenda, these goals cover a huge range of aspirations, including clean and affordable energy, climate action and improved living standards.

Surveying the landscape
The Dennemeyer Group, headquartered in Luxembourg, offers a suite of services for companies looking to innovate and evolve in line with these goals. The group – with its global network of offices and partners – provides support through the entire IP life cycle, thanks to specialist software and input from dedicated consulting teams. Enter Dennemeyer Octimine, a powerful search tool that uses machine learning to deliver exhaustive patent insights from more than 150m patent filings. “If you’ve got an idea and want to check whether a competitor has patented a similar invention, it can search through international databases at lightning speed,” says Peter Erdödy, global head of Dennemeyer Octimine.

By highlighting similarities or confirming gaps in the market, software such as Octimine can help businesses save time and money. In the fiercely competitive cleantech sector, where companies are constantly bidding to outdo each other with new ideas and innovations, this can be invaluable. “It flags up patents that are closest to the description of your invention, including ones related to clean energy technologies,” says Erdödy.

But when it comes to meeting ESG reporting obligations, it is essential to recognise the sustainable IP you already own. For this, tools such as the Green Patent Indicator – newly integrated into Dennemeyer’s Portfolio Management App – are indispensable. The analytics software behind the indicator uses classifications from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development to comb your patent portfolio for technologies that qualify as sustainable. And just like that, you have a snapshot of your portfolio’s green credentials without investing too much time and energy.

Of course, gathering and analysing data on IP is one thing, but there’s no substitute for legal expertise, and this is where the human touch still makes all the difference. “Dennemeyer has legal representation around the world,” Erdödy says. “They can help with getting a patent from the relevant authorities and, once that’s done, maintaining that protection. If another company challenges or infringes that IP, we have more than competent capacities to defend our client’s interests.”

Time for a fresh pair of eyes
In these sorts of scenarios, people from outside an organisation can provide an objective, expert analysis of what’s working and what isn’t. “Consultants from Dennemeyer can go into a business to valuate and benchmark its IP portfolio under sustainability aspects,” says Dominique Christ, managing director at Dennemeyer IP Consulting. “This type of valuation supports clients by creating transparency over the contribution of their IP to the UN’s SDGs and increasing the company’s attractiveness to sustainability focused investors.”

In addition, such an analysis is highly beneficial for further IP strategy development. “It clearly points out strengths and identifies potential for improvement towards sustainability linked goals,” says Christ. Whether set internally by upper management and other stakeholders or mandated by government regulations, Christ’s team work towards fulfilling these obligations.

On the journey to net zero, IP consultants can support businesses seeking to invest in a profitable, viable and climate-resilient future. “A well-maintained IP portfolio can be a very effective tool for improving environmental impact, enhancing engagement with social issues and strengthening corporate governance,” says Christ.

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