IBM knows about the importance of collaborative innovation, working with other companies, individuals and academia through the years to bring unique technology and solutions to the world.
This year, IBM joins the World Business Council for Sustainable Development, along with Nokia, Pitney Bowes, and Sony, to establish the Eco-Patent Commons, committing dozens of innovative, environmentally responsible patents to the public domain.
This idea actually germinated from another collaborative effort – the Global Innovation Outlook. In fact, more than one hundred companies discussed environmental issues in GIO "deep dives" and helped validate and develop the concept of an Eco-Patent Commons, laying the foundations for its eventual public release.
In addition to this news, IBM is also proud to claim 15 years of patent success, earning 3,125 US patents which represent the work of more than 5,200 inventors worldwide. IBM is also the only company to have ever issued more than 3,000 patents, and has done so six times.
The Eco-Patent Commons
Patents pledged to the Commons feature innovations focused on environmental matters and in manufacturing or business processes where the solution provides an environmental benefit. For example, a company may pledge a patent for a manufacturing process that reduces hazardous waste generation, or energy or water consumption. A pledged patent covering a procurement or logistics solution may reduce fuel consumption.
One objective of the Commons is to encourage researchers, entrepreneurs and companies in any industry to help the environment. This is done through the continued creation, application, and development of deliverables from those entities. Membership in the Commons is open to all those who pledge one or more patents.
Each pledged patent must meet at least one of the following criteria:
- Conserves or improves energy or fuel efficiencyReduces pollution and waste generation
- Uses environmentally preferable materials or substances
- Reduces the use of water or materials
- Increases recycling ability
Some of the pledged patents are specific to the chip manufacturing process, but many also have potential applications to a variety of processes, products and industries. They have the potential to preserve trees, protect water and soil, conserve precious fossil fuels, and improve air quality. They include inventions for cleaner air, smarter smokestacks, more efficient cars, safer groundwater, and biodegradeable materials.
Pledging patents to the world
Making patents available to the public domain is not a new concept for IBM. This most recent patent pledge is consistent with previous commitments of 150 software standards for interoperability, and similar pledges made to the open source, healthcare and education communities.
“The sharing of intellectual property is about a new kind of innovation on technology,” said David Kappos, IBM vice president of intellectual property law. “So, the technology itself involves innovation, sharing of intellectual property itself is innovation, and what makes this so exciting to IBM is that we’re putting two kinds of innovations together.”
The Commons is also consistent with IBM’s four decades of leadership in environmental stewardship and proven ability to address complex environmental issues through innovative approaches and smart systems.
The pledged portfolio will be made available on a dedicated, public Web site hosted by the WBCSD.