Skip to main content

IBM and World Business Council for Sustainable Development team with Nokia, Pitney Bowes and Sony to establish Eco-Patent Commons

First-of-its-kind effort to unleash dozens of innovative, environmentally-responsible patents in the public domain

14 Jan 2008 -- Leading members of the corporate community have come together in a first-of-its-kind effort to help the environment, unleashing dozens of innovative, environmentally-responsible patents to the public domain.

Availability of these patents will encourage researchers, entrepreneurs and companies of all sizes in any industry to create, apply, and further develop their consumer or industrial products, processes, and services in a way that will help to protect and respect the environment.

The World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) and IBM -- named today by IFI Claims as the leading earner of U.S. patents for the 15th consecutive year -- are initiating this effort in partnership with Nokia, Pitney Bowes, and Sony. The pledged portfolio, dubbed the "Eco-Patent Commons," is available on a dedicated, public Web site hosted by the WBCSD:

Eco-Patent Commons

Patents pledged to the Eco-Patent Commons -- originally proposed at IBM's Global Innovation Outlook conference -- feature innovations focused on environmental matters and innovations 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.

Examples of the environmental benefits expected for pledged patents include:

"The Eco-Patent Commons provides a unique and significant leadership opportunity for business to make a difference -- sharing their innovations and solutions in support of sustainable development," said Bjorn Stigson, president of the WBCSD. "The Eco-Patent Commons also provides an opportunity for companies and other entities to identify areas of common interest and establish new relationships that can lead to further development in the patented technologies and elsewhere."

"Innovation to address environmental issues will require both the application of technology as well as new models for sharing intellectual property among companies in different industries," said Dr. John E. Kelly III, IBM senior vice president and director of IBM Research. "As the leader in U.S. patents for 15 consecutive years, with 3,125 patents issued in 2007, IBM is excited to bring its patent resources to bear in service of the environment. In addition to enabling new players to engage in protecting the environment, the free exchange of valuable intellectual property will accelerate work on the next level of environmental challenges. We strongly urge other companies to contribute to the Eco-Patent Commons."

Membership in the Eco-Patent Commons is open to all individuals and companies pledging one or more patents. The selection and submission of each organization's patents for pledging is at the organization's discretion. The founding companies and the WBCSD are inviting other interested companies to become members and participate in this initiative promoting innovation and collaboration to help protect the planet.

The Eco-Patent Commons was originally proposed at IBM's Global Innovation Outlook (GIO) conference, which brings together hundreds of the world's thought leaders from business, politics, academia, and not-for-profits to discuss business and social challenges, demonstrating the power and benefits of open, collaborative innovation models.

Member companies of the Eco-Patent Commons today issued the following statements:

Donal O'Connell, director of intellectual property, Nokia, said, "Environmental issues have great potential to help us discover the next wave of innovation because they force us all to think differently about how we make, consume and recycle products. From Nokia we have pledged a patent designed to help companies safely re-use old mobile phones by transforming them into new products like digital cameras, data monitoring devices or other electronic items. Recycling the computing power of mobile phones in this way could significantly increase the reuse of materials in the electronics industry."

Angelo Chaclas, vice president & deputy general counsel, intellectual property and technology law at Pitney Bowes, said, "The Eco-Patent Commons offers an effective framework to develop and make available technology that helps combat climate change and reduce the release of carbon dioxide. Our objective for the Eco-Patent Commons is to promote the spread of environmentally conscious technologies that make conservation and preservation a priority."

Hidemi Tomita, general manager of Sony Corporation's Corporate Social Responsibility Department, said, "To more effectively protect the environment, it is time for business to join efforts rather than tackling the issue alone. We truly believe this joint effort with our peers will mark a significant step and help transfer innovative ideas and technologies across industries and beyond to developing countries. We are excited to launch this platform to share technologies that will bring about positive changes in the environment."

For more information, visit the Eco-Patent Commons Web site (link resides outside of