Searching Climate Change Patents

Introduction

There is an increased awareness of the threat of global warming and the climate change issues now. Many environmental, economic and social issues find common ground in mitigation of global warming through limiting and/or reducing the concentration of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. Undoubtedly, therefore, there is range of possible technological solutions attracting the attention of researchers. Technological solutions and breathtaking inventions are emerging throughout the world on different dimensions as covered by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). It should not be surprising to see these inventions getting increasingly patented throughout the world in different countries.

It is of interest to search these patents available widely in online databases to researchers and policy makers for various reasons particularly for advancement of knowledge and further research. Patent search, however, is getting more specialized skill not commonly available with active bench scientists and researchers working in their own highly advanced areas.

WIPO Initiative on IPC Green Inventory

The World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) launched on September 16, 2010 an on-line tool that is associated with International Patent Classification (IPC) system. It is believed that this will help in identifying existing and emerging green technologies, as well as potential partners for further R&D and commercial exploitation.

The IPC Green Inventory contains some 200 topics / technological terms recognised by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC). Each such topic is linked with the most relevant IPC symbol(s), chosen by experts from around the world. Furthermore, these identified IPC symbols are hyperlinked to WIPO’s PATENTSCOPE service to automatically search and show all “green” international applications under the Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT).

The PCT was concluded in 1970 and has been amended a couple of times since then. As on date, there are 142 contracting states. It is open to States party to the Paris Convention for the Protection of Industrial Property (1883). The Treaty makes it possible to seek patent protection for an invention simultaneously in each of a large number of countries by filing an “international” patent application. Such an application may be filed by anyone who is a national or resident of a Contracting State. It may generally be filed with the national patent office of a Contracting State or directly with the International Bureau of WIPO in Geneva.

Besides maintaining and facilitating filing and prosecution of “international” patent applications, WIPO also maintains an online searchable database of patents – known as PATENTSCOPE. This system enables to do search in over 1.76 million published international patent applications (PCT) and in more than 3 million when including patent documents from Regional and National collections. The database continues to be updated with addition of more and more national collections. Presently, the system has been integrated with national collection of patent data from Russia, Korea, ARIPO, Cuba, Mexico, Singapore, Vietnam, South Africa, Israel and Argentina.

International Patent Classification

It is a system primarily used to classify and search patent documents according to the technical fields they pertain. It therefore serves as an instrument for an orderly arrangement of the patent documents, a basis for selective dissemination of information and a basis for investigating the state of the art in given fields of technology. The classification scheme presently contains about 70,000 entries, i.e. classification symbols that can be allotted to patent documents. These classification symbols are arranged in a hierarchical, tree-like structure into sections, classes, sub-classes, groups and sub-groups. The IPC contains about 70,000 groups, ten percent of which are the main groups. IPC is used in more than 100 countries in the world. The IPC is thus a lingua franca of the patent classification; thus with an identified IPC symbol related to a technological field of inetrest, it is easy to search patents through this symbol from various databases usually available online freely.

Themes of Green Inventory

The WIPO initiative of ‘IPC Green Inventory’ has picked up the following themes in relation to the focus areas of UNFCCC: a) Alternative Energy Production b) Transportation, c) Energy Conservation, d) Waste Management e) Agriculture / Forestry, f) Administrative, Regulatory or Design Aspects and g) Nuclear Power Generation . There are a number of priority areas within each theme for identification of IPC symbols matching with the technical scope of inventions reported in the patents bearing these IPC symbols. As already stated above, there are more than 200 topics / technological areas provided in this list. A section of these topics / technological areas along with the relevant IPC symbols identified by WIPO is provided in the Table below.

The power and usefulness of this new tool developed by WIPO can be gauged from the information provided in this Table itself where the first column gives the topic of scientific field and the second column gives the relevant IPC symbols along with number of related patents that are accessible from PATENTSCOPE as on date; with time, however, these numbers would increase with addition of newer patents in the database. The IPC symbols shown in this Table are also active and hyper-linked with WIPO’s PATENTSCOPE database. Thus clicking on each of these symbols can instantly give a list of patents from this database as per the number shown in the parentheses.

TOPIC IPC Symbol (No. of Published
Int’l Patent Application)

ALTERNATIVE ENERGY PRODUCTION
Bio-fuels
Solid fuels .
C10L 5/00 (80), 5/40 (64) - 5/48 (64)
.
Biodiesel .
C07C 67/00 (104), 69/00 (199),
C10G (5823), C10L 1/02 (515),
1/19 (130), C11C 3/10 (303),
C12P 7/64 (557)
.
Integrated gasification
combined cycle (IGCC)
.
C10L 3/00 (154), F02C 3/28 (100)
.
Fuel cells .
H01M 4/86 (1239) - 4/98 (2), 8/00 (837)
8/24 (1474), 12/00 (24) - 12/08 (107)
.
Pyrolysis or gasification
of biomass
.
C10B 53/00 (237), C10J (1041)
.
Ocean thermal energy
conversion (OTEC)
.
F03G 7/05 (28)
.
Wind energy .
F03D (2939)
.
Solar energy - Photovoltaics (PV)
- for generation of electrical energy
.
H01L 27/142 (136), 31/00 (488),
H01G 9/20 (243), H02N 6/00 (140)
.
Geothermal heat .
F01K (1291), F24F 5/00 (630),
F24J 3/08 (159), H02N 10/00 (28),
F25B 30/06 (65)
.
Waste heat recovery
- in gasification plants
.
C10J 3/86 (29)
.
TRANSPORTATION
Hybrid Electric Vehicles (HEVs) .
B60K 6/00 (65), 6/20 (53)
.
ENERGY CONSERVATION
Storage of electrical energy .
B60K 6/28 (57), B60W 10/26 (210),
H01M 10/44 (655), - 10/46 (199),
H01G 9/155 (144), H02J 3/28 (36),
7/00 (2273), 15/00 (83)
.
Low energy lighting
- electroluminescent light sources
(e.g. LEDs, OLEDs, PLEDs)
.
F21K 99/00 (155), F21L 4/02 (77),
H01L 33/00 (4239) - 33/64 (28),
51/50 (2511), H05B 33/00 (145)
.
WASTE MANAGEMENT
Consuming waste by combustion .
F23G (1508)
.
Pollution control
- carbon capture and
storage/sequestration
.
B01D 53/14 (807), 53/22 (789),
53/62 (351), B65G 5/00 (50),
C01B 31/20 (168) E21B 41/00 (564),
43/16 (246) E21F 17/16 (16),
F25J 3/02 (297)
.
AGRICULTURE / FORESTRY
Soil improvement .
C09K 17/00 (31), E02D 3/00 (40)
.
ADMIN, REGULATORY OR DESIGN ASPECTS
Carbon/emissions trading,
e.g. pollution credits
.
G06Q (27929)
.
NUCLEAR POWER GENERATION
Gas turbine power
plants using heat
source of nuclear origin
.
F02C 1/05 (51)
.

Using IPC Green Inventory

The system as developed is certainly commendable as it can be easily appreciated that the range of topics in environmentally green technologies is quite wide and the IPC symbols broadly scattered. With the identified IPC symbols, it is at once possible to access a sizable data in a narrowly defined firld. The numbers shown in parentheses need not be taken as absolute number of relevant patents but merely as a pointer to the enormity and manginuted of interest of researchers on various different aspects of the technology. It should also be borne in mind that the list of patents accessed by clicking in here is from within the PCT database of WIPO (PATENTSCOPE). It may be necessary to refine the accessed lists as per the scope and inetrest of the user and discarding irrelevant patents. The list may as well be augmented by adding more patents accessed from other databases, e.g., European – worldwide database using the identified IPC symbols. The European world-wide is known to collect patent data from more than 90 countries.

It may also be realised that despite identification of relevant IPC symbols, the task of collecting relevant patents may still be daunting in some cases. For example, the IPC symbol G06Q as shown here for ‘Carbon/emission trading e.g. pollution credits’ fetches a fairly large number of patents that is likely to be far in excess of the number of relevant patents of interst. This IPC symbol seems to cover a very wide range of subjects such as data processing, office automation, insurance, e-commerce etc.

A most interesting and redeeming feature of this new service from WIPO, however, is that it allows the user to get updated on these searches and any further developments instantly through RSS feeds. On each page of the search on WIPO site, there is a link for RSS feed and the users can subscribe to these in a webpage or e-mail program.

Environmentally Sound Technologies (EST) Concordance

Interestingly, a detailed table on the above subject is also available at the website of USPTO that provides both US Patent Classification (USPC) as well as International Patent Classification (IPC) symbols for the range of topics on environmentally sound technologies (EST) covered by UNFCCC. The EST Concordance was created to serve as a broad guide for the classifications of ESTs, and is neither exhaustive nor exclusive of ESTs as a whole. Unlike, ‘ready-to-click’ links as provided in the IPC Green Inventory of WIPO, USPTO links of USPC and IPC point to the classification schemes of USPTO and WIPO; the user is expected to be familiar with the layout and structure of both databases to extract meaningful inventory of patents.

Link to - WIPO’s IPC Green Inventory

Link to - USPTO’s Environmentally Sound Technologies Concordance

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