Intellectual Property and Climate Change: Breaking the Doha Deadlock

In December 2012, Doha hosted the international climate talks for parties to the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change 1992 and the Kyoto Protocol 1997. There was much debate over intellectual property and climate change, with a spectrum of positions. Disappointingly, the 2012 Doha Climate talks resulted in no declaration or agreement on intellectual property and clean technologies. Indeed, the discussions on intellectual property were deadlocked. There was instead a cluster of decisions known as the Doha Climate Gateway - which only addressed, more generally, a technology mechanism.

This presentation considered a number of proposals to break the stalemate over intellectual property and climate change. First, it considered the development of fast-track mechanisms for the assessment of green patent applications and 'Patents for Humanity'. Patent attorney Eric Lane has argued that 'harmonization of the disparate green patent fast track programs into a uniform system with a single set of rules and requirements would greatly streamline the process for green patent applicants and boost participation.' He has maintained that a 'Global Green Patent Highway would be a powerful mechanism for fostering green innovation and should be employed as a tool in the battle to combat climate change.' This proposal was evaluated.

Second, it considered the debate over access mechanisms in respect of intellectual property and clean technologies. In particular, there has been much debate about compulsory licensing in respect of clean technologies in Australia and internationally. The Alliance for Clean Technology Innovation - which included General Electric, Vestas, and Exxon - argued that compulsory licensing in respect of clean technologies should be limited to exceptional circumstances. India, the Third World Network and the South Centre have argued that compulsory licensing should be more widely available to address the impact of climate change. Locally, the Productivity Commission has examined whether compulsory licensing should be re-formulated to address competition, the public interest, and humanitarian objectives.

Third, this presentation explored the use of innovation models to promote the research, development, and diffusion of clean technologies. It considered the creation of the UNFCCC Climate Technology Centre, the selection of the United Nations Environment Programme as its host, and the development of a network of climate innovation centres. CGIAR provides a useful precedent for the establishment of such a technology mechanism.