Minutes - TRIPS Council - View details of the intervention/statement

H.E. Ambassador Xolelwa Mlumbi-Peter

Introduction 521.   In the name of the Group of Friends of IP and Innovation (FOII), Switzerland is pleased to briefly introduce document IP/C/W/675 "Making MSMEs Competitive in Green Tech", as cosponsored by of Australia, Canada, Chile, the European Union, Japan, Singapore, the Separate Customs Territory of Taiwan, Penghu, Kinmen and Matsu, the United Kingdom and the United States. 522.   Climate change, biodiversity loss, environmental degradation and food security are some of the major global challenges' humanity faces. They need to be addressed at national, regional and international levels. 523.   For MSMEs, it is key to protect and disseminate their innovations. A recent study by EPO and EUIPO suggest that SMEs that own IPRs have a 68% higher turnover per employee than non-IP owners. Yet less than 9% of SMEs own intellectual property.24 Therefore, the goal of this Submission is to look into possible approaches on how to make MSMEs more competitive in the field of green tech through IPR use. The following questions may help to guide the Council's discussion: a. What are the Members' experiences with international platforms such as WIPO GREEN? b. How can MSMEs develop a sound IP strategy in the green technology sector? c. What forms of IP-related measures taken by Members have proven useful for the support of green tech MSMEs in their financing/commercialization strategy and which ones have not? d. How can green tech MSMEs be made aware of the benefits of IP for their business activities? e. According to Members' experiences, what are the main challenges for green tech MSMEs in sharing their technology with enterprises, including across all levels of economic development? f. What experience have Members gained in fast-tracking patent applications in the green technology sector? g. According to Members' experiences, which sectors in green tech need the most support and/or can benefit the most from IPRs? h. Are there other ways in which IP offices can enhance the attractiveness of the use of IP rights by MSMEs in the green technology sector? 524.   The co-sponsors hope for an interesting exchange of experiences among Members. 525.   With your permission, Chair, my delegation, I will continue right away by sharing our own experience in this field: Switzerland has adopted several regulations and tools such as the revised Carbon Dioxide (CO2)-Act, a national strategy and action plans in order to address environmental challenges. Sustainable technologies and innovations are key for addressing these global challenges. In Switzerland, MSMEs, play a particularly important role in this context.They represent 99% of all Swiss companies. Support at the international level 526.   At the WTO, Switzerland is an active Member of the Informal Working Group on MSMEs, which aims at promoting the integration of such companies in the global economy. The Swiss IPO (IPI) is also a partner of WIPO GREEN and a member of its core committee. As set out in more detail in submission 675, WIPO GREEN's mission is to accelerate the development and dissemination of Environmentally Sound Technologies. Switzerland considers this an important and particularly useful initiative by WIPO, helping to address these global challenges. National level – general support for MSMEs in the green tech area 527.   At the national level, Switzerland has put into place several initiatives and programmes that facilitate and support the development and diffusion of green technologies. Among those are specific instruments and funds for supporting innovations in the field of environment and green energy. The Swiss Triple Impact programme (STI)25 helps Swiss companies to measure their contribution towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals and identify the main areas where they could still improve. The STI programme also offers companies business opportunities and promotes innovation. National level – specific IP support for MSMEs in the green tech area 528.   MSMEs in green tech turn to the Swiss IP Office/ IPI for an inexpensive, assisted patent search. MSMEs receive information on the patentability of their research or business venture, an overview of the state of the art in the respective technology sector and advice on what to look out for after a patent has been granted. 529.   IPI also contributes to the annual Swiss Cleantech Report, which presents a selection of various sustainable Swiss innovations developed by Swiss MSMEs and research institutes, such as tools for sustainable agriculture or recycling technologies. The 2020 report notes that around 30 new cleantech start-ups are established in Switzerland annually, making up 10% of all new start-ups in Switzerland. IPRs play a crucial role for these start-ups as well as for the cleantech sector in general. Around 16% of all Swiss active patent families are in the cleantech sector. An example – Bloom Biorenewables 530.   Let me finish with a case example from Switzerland of how international and national IP measures may help to leverage the development of a green tech MSME. 531.   At the Swiss Innovation Forum 2020, the winner in the category sustainable development was Bloom Biorenewables. A start-up company that has developed a solution addressing one specific global challenge in the green tech area. Its mission is to replace petroleum-based products with sustainable yet cost-effective alternatives. The company had developed a conversion technology that separates and transforms plant-based materials such as wood or agricultural waste into chemical building blocks. These blocks can ultimately be used for textiles, fragrances or bioplastics for instance, and with regard to the latter, offer a way to reduce CO2 emissions caused by increased plastic use worldwide. 532.   Bloom Biorenewables decided early on to make use of an Assisted Patent Search at IPI to gain insight into the relevant market and identify where exactly they want to direct their innovative activity to. Since then, the start-up has filed three patents (using the PCT) and at the same time continued to use the IPI's Assisted Patent Search to define its field of Freedom to Operate. 533.   At yesterday's side event "Supporting MSMEs, LDCs and Green Technology", organized here at the WTO by the IP & Innovation Friendsgroup, the CEO of Bloom Biorenewables pointed out that he considers the strategic use of IP as central for a start-up company. The long-term business model of the company is to become a technology provider in the field of sustainable chemistry and generate most of its revenues from royalties of its IP portfolio. This exemplifies the importance of MSMEs to secure intellectual property protection for their innovation, also in view of attracting further investment to continue growing. Its IP portfolio enabled Bloom Biorenewables to reassure its investors that the company can defend itself against illegitimate free-riders. Bloom Biorenewables has also listed its technology in the WIPO GREEN database for potential matchmaking and a technology exchange with interested partners. Conclusion 534.   In sum, IP plays an important role in supporting MSMEs in the green tech sector: at the national level, Governments can provide MSMEs with assistance, for ex. through services offered by their IP offices; at the international level, platforms such as WIPO GREEN provide visibility and opportunities for collaboration and partnership. All these efforts promote innovation in the green tech sector and with that more sustainability for the benefit of this planet.

66. The Chair said that this item had been put on the agenda at the request of Australia; Canada, Chile; the European Union; Japan; Singapore; Switzerland; the Separate Customs Territory of Taiwan, Penghu, Kinmen and Matsu; the United Kingdom, and the United States. A communication with the same title had been circulated.
67. The representatives of Switzerland; the United States of America; Australia; Singapore; the United Kingdom; Japan; the European Union; Chad, on behalf of the LDC Group; Canada; India; Norway; Brazil; Ecuador; and China took the floor.
68. The Council took note of the statements made.
IP/C/M/98, IP/C/M/98/Add.1

24 Intellectual property rights and firm performance in Europe: an economic analysis; https://euipo.europa.eu/tunnel-web/secure/webdav/guest/document_library/observatory/documents/reports/IPContributionStudy/IPR_firm_performance_in_EU/2021_IP_Rights_and_firm_performance_in_the_EU_en.pdf (last accessed: 03.03.21)

25 https://www.are.admin.ch/are/en/home/sustainable-development/strategy-and-planning/sustainable-development-strategy-2016-2019.html (last accessed: 15.02.2021)