Innovation and enterprise blog

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25 April 2024

How IP can save the world: creating a sustainable future with intellectual property

There is no denying that the world faces ever increasing environmental challenges for the 21st century: from climate change and energy consumption, to clean water, population growth and the sustainable use of our earth’s finite resources. How we meet and overcome these challenges is largely dependent on new innovations and the successful launch of products and services that are global game changers.

Did you know that intellectual property (IP) protection and commercialisation is the key to these innovations working? It’s no exaggeration to say that IP can save the world.

That’s why the World Intellectual Property Office’s (WIPO) World IP Day theme this year is sustainability and why the British Library’s Business & IP Centre is playing its own role in supporting IP and innovation.

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How can IP save the world?

Every country, institution, industry and individual can make changes to make a difference.

In 2015, the United Nations set 17 sustainable development goals in the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development adopted by all member states, which underpins much of the focus and resourcing from governments and industry.

WIPO’s role is to “encourage and amplify the innovative and creative solutions that are so crucial to building our common future.” They work with these Sustainable Development Goals (SDG) and have provided some fascinating data around which areas of technical innovation are making a major contribution.

In their Innovation Maturity Matrix for SDG-related patents, it won’t be a surprise to see significant numbers of new technologies in Industry, Innovation and Infrastructure, Climate Action, Affordable and Clean Energy and Responsible Consumption and Production that are the current hot topics. You can read the analytics here.

There are thousands of new patents (a protection given to new technical inventions or processes) being granted all around the world that can potentially help in overcoming these global challenges, but there are other forms of intellectual property that can be just as important for any new invention or product, big or small.

To provide a tiny taster of some fascinating new ideas and businesses that are making waves, here’s a small sample of what’s happening right now that shows us how IP can save the world.

Fancy a flight on an electric powered plane?

Battery powered flight is the holy grail of aviation innovation. If the aviation industry, along with sea and road, can drastically reduce its carbon emissions it will go a long way to meeting global carbon reduction targets.

One significant step toward that is the ‘Spirit of Innovation’, which is claimed to be the world’s fastest all-electric aircraft, travelling at a top speed of "555.9 km/h (345.4 mph) over 3 kilometres, smashing the existing record by 213.04 km/h (132mph)". Rolls Royce was a partner within the 'Accelerating the Electrification of Flight’ project, part funded by the Aerospace Technology Institute (ATI), in partnership with the Department for Business, Energy & Industrial Strategy and Innovate UK. 

An important part of securing and reinvesting in innovation is patent protection. A company such as Rolls Royce will invest significantly to do this, with thousands of patents filed in scores of different technical areas and advances.

One such example of a patented technology by Rolls Royce to do with electric powered flight is 'Combined AC and DC Turboelectric Distributed Propulsion System'. All the technical details can be found here: EP3318492A1. By contrast, another company Aurora Flight Sciences Corp has a patent for a ‘Hybrid Propulsion Vertical Take-off and Landing Aircraft’. (Patent number WO2017123699A1), proving beyond doubt that the sky is no limit to sustainable innovations in aviation.

If you think you’ve a world changing invention, you can sign up to our patent searching webinar every month on our listing of workshops and webinars.

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Solar energy innovation is a walk in the park

Reimagining the everyday things around us and converting it into a sustainability solution is the perfect example of innovation at its finest. That’s why the product 'PlatioSolar', created by a Hungarian firm, Innovatív Térburkolatfejlesztő Kft. (PLATIO Solar), is a fascinating step forward (literally).

It uses the pavement where we walk as photovoltaic cells, also known as solar cells. The product is itself made of recyclable material and is heavy duty and scratch resistant, essential for its outdoor use. The composite frame and shape of the product is certainly interesting and it may explain why it has a registered design protection for the United States. You can view that protection here.

A product like this has the potential for other uses and applications, strengthening the business model of the company behind the innovation. Customers could be local authorities but also home users too, so it’s not a surprise to see the product marketed for residential homes and gardens as well as smart cities. The company picking up awards along the way certainly helps as well.

Could the future of solar power by under our feet as well as up in the sky?

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Carbon foot prints and paw-prints

The thought of eating insects for protein is not exactly everyone’s idea of cordon bleu, but there has been an undeniable shift in our awareness of what we eat and where it comes from. The move away from meat to more plant-based foods and the increasing take up of vegetarian and vegan options is a consumer shift that’s likely to stay. As with humans, so too with pets.

Pet food sales are a major part of meat usage, estimated to be at a quarter, and this of course has an environmental impact too. This is why award winning UK firm Mr Bug has come up with a completely different product and solution to the use of meat and dairy in pet products.

Theirs are insect-based dog treats, packed with the protein your dog needs. Mr Bug bases its product on veterinary science and studies that support that their mealworm product is as beneficial as other alternatives: with of course the added benefit of being environmentally sustainable.

With such a memorable brand and a product that people no doubt will share and talk about, protecting the brand name 'Mr Bug' as a registered trade mark is essential. You can see their trade mark on the UK trade mark register here.

Every business will build a brand and a reputation around their name, which is why registering a trade mark is of potential interest for every business start-up and even sole trader. Trade marks are another form of intellectual property protection.

New product innovations such as Mr Bug, with IP protection and a sound sustainable business plan, go a long way to not just reducing our carbon footprint but also our paw-print too.

If you’d like to find out more about trade marks and the importance of owning your own brand when starting up, then sign up to our free Kickstart Your Business workshops.

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The future is always innovative…

One certain thing in our time is change. Governments, industry and citizens make choices to invest, spend and create things that can help or hinder our life and environment on this precious blue jewel we call earth. Innovation will be central to how we overcome these challenges. So today, being World IP Day, provides us a chance to rethink, redo and reinvent for the future.

With so much change and inventiveness, the planet’s future sustainability that we hope and work towards, can certainly be saved with IP.

Written by Jeremy O’Hare, Research and Business Development Manager at the BIPC.

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