At the launch of the World Meteorological Organisation’s State of the Global Climate 2021 Report, UN Secretary-General António Guterres has said that renewable energy technologies, such as battery storage, should be treated as essential and freely-available global public goods.

Mr Guterres noted that “removing obstacles to knowledge sharing and technological transfer – including intellectual property constraints – is crucial for a rapid and fair renewable energy transition“.  A link to Mr Guterres’ full address can be found here.  Mr Guterres’ comments raise important questions as to how governments incentivise innovation and the development of the new technologies needed to bring about the energy transition if, as seems widely accepted, that responsibility is expected to fall in large part on the private sector (elsewhere Mr Guterres notes the need to reform domestic policy frameworks to “catalyze private sector investments” in renewable energy technologies).

In this context, we think much can be learnt from the pharmaceutical industry in how to use IP rights to both incentivise innovation whilst also facilitating the sharing of technology. The COVID-19 pandemic is an excellent example of this – pharmaceutical companies have been able to sell their vaccines profitably in developed countries, but have also licenced their rights to manufacturers in developing countries to ensure widespread access.  Nevertheless, there have been moves to implement an IP waiver in relation to the treatment and prevention of COVID-19, with the most recent draft proposal at the World Trade Organisation proposing temporary waivers in relation to vaccines.  We have previously written about the lessons the energy sector might be able to learn from the experience of the pharma sector – see our article here.

Mr Guterres’ address is another signal that energy companies should be considering their global IP strategies in the context of the energy transition now, to the extent they have not already done so.

For more information, contact:

Rebekah Gay
Rebekah Gay
Partner, Sydney
+61 2 9225 5242
Emma Iles
Emma Iles
Partner, Melbourne
+61 3 9288 1625
Andrew Wells
Andrew Wells
Partner, London
+44 20 7466 2929
Natasha Daniell
Natasha Daniell
Associate, London
+44 20 7466 2697