Patent Pending: Green Development and Patent Law

Yesterday, Slate had a pair of articles on the complex—but essential issue—of patents for green technology. Its a dense read, but worth it for insights on how patent law, and the movement of intellectual property to developing nations, will effect green development.

Lisa Larrimore Ouellette makes the case that reforming the Bayh-Dole Act—a bill that allows (federally funded universities to grant exclusive rights to private companies) would ease the burdens of restrictive patent regulations:

So what's the fix? Patents on federally funded inventions should be the exception, not the rule. Fewer patents would mean cheaper green products, both abroad and here in the United States, which would help reduce global carbon emissions. And it wouldn't be too much of a burden to U.S. business interests, since companies that perform their own research, rather than just commercializing federally funded inventions, would still be able to patent their technologies. 

On the other hand, Michael Shellenberger and Ted Nordhaus argue that the issue is less important than we think:

Yet what was strikingly absent from the conversation was any recognition of the reality unfolding right in front of everyone's noses: Clean-energy technologies are already being transferred rapidly for reasons having nothing to do with global warming or the U.N. It looks as if the next great technology transfer won't be from rich to poor countries but from China to the United States.