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

H.E. Ambassador Xolelwa Mlumbi-Peter (South Africa)
United States of America

535.   The United States is pleased to co-sponsor this agenda item and contribute to the discussion of IP and Innovation: Making MSMEs Competitive in Green Tech. 536.   I would like to thank Australia, Canada, Chile, The European Union, Japan, Singapore, Switzerland, Chinese Taipei, and the United Kingdom for co-sponsoring this item. 537.   I would also like to take the opportunity to thank those who took part in the March 9th side event, which focused on "Supporting MSMEs, LDCs and Green Technology" and was the latest event in the series of discussions around "Making MSMEs Competitive through IP and Innovation", organized by the Friends of IP and Innovation. 538.   The event, which will shortly be available to view on YouTube, featured a distinguished and highly experienced group of panelists, including representative CEOs of green tech start-ups, and experts from international organizations and government who support MSMEs in their efforts to commercialize their green tech innovations, and to build their businesses and use IP to their best advantage. 539.   Today, the delegation of the United States would like to share a very brief overview of some of the efforts and resources being put toward addressing the climate crisis by encouraging and enhancing the ability of scientists, inventors, entrepreneurs and creative thinkers to innovate in the green tech sector. 540.   The Biden-Harris Administration is accelerating investments in research and development through the creation of a new Climate Innovation Working Group as part of the National Climate Task Force. The working group will help coordinate and strengthen federal government-wide efforts to foster affordable, game-changing technologies that can help America achieve President Biden's goal of net zero economy-wide emissions by 2050, and emphasize research to bolster and build domestic clean energy supply chains and strengthen American manufacturing. 541.   In general, the experience of the United States with public-private collaborations in innovation arises in the context of an economy in which private firms operate without substantial government intervention. In the United States, innovation and development are the result of competition in the marketplace, without heavy state direction. One useful function of public-private collaborations is to help address the space that markets on their own cannot fill. 542.   As a first example of the widespread innovation effort, the U.S. Department of Energy's Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) announced a competition for USD 100 million in funding to support transformational low-carbon energy technologies. The ARPA-E announcement invites experts from business, academia and National Laboratories across the country to submit proposals for funding to support research into potentially disruptive technologies across the full spectrum of energy applications, specifically encouraging inter-disciplinary approaches and collaboration across sectors. This is the first of billions of dollars of Department of Energy R&D opportunities to be announced in 2021. 543.   In addition to supporting technologies that are near commercialization, the Climate Innovation Working Group will also emphasize research to bolster and build critical clean energy supply chains in the United States and strengthen American manufacturing. As it coordinates climate innovation across the federal government, it will focus on programmes at land-grant universities, Historically Black Colleges and Universities, and other minority-serving institutions. 544.   Entrepreneurs provide dynamic solutions to real-world energy challenges, while they often face challenges of their own to bring products to market. During the early phases of product development, entrepreneurs are faced with ensuing stages of protecting intellectual property, testing and validation, manufacturing at scale, and building the distribution networks essential to a sound business model.26 545.   The U.S. Patent & Trademark Office provides services and support for inventors in the green tech/clean tech space through a number of programmes, including accelerated examination as well as the Patents for Humanity Awards competition. a. In 2009, USPTO initiated a Pilot Programme for Green Technologies Including Greenhouse Gas Reduction.27 b. Under that programme, patent applicants could have an application advanced out of turn (accorded special status) for examination, if the application was directed to green technologies, including environmental quality, energy conservation, development of renewable energy resources or greenhouse gas emission reduction.28 c. The "Green Technology Pilot" programme resulted in 5,550 total petitions for the programme and 1,062 issued US Patents having "green" technology.29 d. The "Green Technology" pilot programme ended in 2012 and was subsequently folded into the broader Prioritized Examination (Track I) or the Accelerated Examination (MPEP 708.02) programmes.30 e. The Track I and Accelerated Examination programmes offer advancement of examination and set a target of reaching final disposition within 12 months from the time advancement is initiated. 546.   Another programme offered by the USPTO that helps incentivize and drive innovation in the household energy and sanitation sector is the USPTO's Patents for Humanity awards competition recognizing innovators who use game-changing technology to meet global humanitarian challenges. 547.   Patents for Humanity provides business incentives for reaching those in need: winners receive an acceleration certificate to expedite select proceedings at the USPTO, as well as public recognition of their work. The awards showcase how patent holders with vision are pioneering innovative ways to provide affordable, scalable, and sustainable solutions that contribute to the global good, while maintaining commercial markets. 548.   Over the past several years, Patents for Humanity award recipients have included, among others, unique and novel Green tech inventions. For example, Dr. Daniel Yeh and his team at the University of South Florida received an award in the 2020 competition for their Newgenerator machine, which recovers nutrient fertilizer, renewable energy, and clean water from human wastes, without relying on sewers. The conventional means of providing sanitation service in the U.S. is through an extensive sewer network coupled with a centralized wastewater treatment plant. While the approach has been largely successful in protecting human and ecological health, it comes at a great cost of capital, energy, clean water, and infrastructure maintenance. Today, about 40% of the world's population continues to lack adequate sanitation due to constraints in infrastructure, land, resources, and finance. 549.   Tragically, every few seconds a child dies from a water-borne disease such as dysentery or cholera. The NEWgenerator addresses these important problems. Housed in a mini-container, the NEWgenerator is a compact, modular, decentralized approach to treating wastewater on a neighbourhood scale which operates entirely off the grid on solar energy. Utilizing state-of-the-art membrane bioreactor technology, the NEWgenerator can simultaneously recover nutrients (such as Nitrogen, Phosphorus and Potassium (NPK)), energy, and water from wastewater. These resources are then used for urban agriculture (in a hydroponic system), thereby closing the loop to meet another dire urban need in local food production. The inventors aim to utilize NEWgenerator on islands and coastal communities to form water/sanitation micro-grids powered by renewable energy which are more resilient to storms and disasters, as well as in refugee camps. To enable broad access to those in need, the technology has been licensed to commercial partners worldwide, including India and South Africa, where it has already been successfully demonstrated. 550.   In another example, in 2018, start-up social enterprise, Sanivation, received a Patents for Humanity award for its innovative waste processing technology that processes human waste with solar thermal energy to create charcoal-like briquettes for cooking and heating needs. In some regions, up to 90% of human waste is disposed of untreated. Diseases spread by human waste are the second leading cause of death for children under five. Sanivation saw the potential to solve not just this waste disposal problem, but to turn human waste into a fuel product that benefits communities. They have setup three plants in Kenya which provide 2500 people a month with sanitation and energy services that are more cost-effective than alternatives. Their briquettes burn longer than charcoal and produce one-third the carbon monoxide and particulate emissions, saving 88 trees per ton sold. Sanivation's work has been supported by the US Centers for Disease Control, the UN Refugee Agency, the Gates Foundation, and the Kenyan Government. Sanivation is building additional plants with the goal of serving 1 million people by 2022. 551.   The U.S. Department of Energy for decades has supported innovation in the energy sector, including through policy-making, grants, partnership facilitation, and educational workshops. I will touch on only a few today as examples of the types of programmes the DOE has in place to help drive the innovation needed to transition the world to a clean energy future. 552.   DOE's offices and 17 National Laboratories are working every single day to research, develop, and deploy the clean energy technologies of the future, including battery storage, renewable power, electric vehicles, carbon capture, and resilient grid infrastructure. 553.   DOE national labs play an important role in developing the innovation ecosystems in their respective regions. DOE created "Lab-Embedded Entrepreneurship Programmes" to provide an institutional home for innovative postdoctoral researchers to build their research into products and train to be entrepreneurs. In addition to technological access and support, the programme trains innovators to develop entrepreneurial acumen and skills, while introducing them to the ecosystem partners needed to facilitate commercial and investment opportunities. 554.   Programmes managed by the Office of Technology Transitions, like the Technology Commercialization Fund and Energy I-Corps, promote engagement with the private sector and the entrepreneurial mindset necessary to spur the transition of lab-powered innovations toward to the marketplace. 555.   DOE's Lab Partnering Service [lab partnering DOT org] provides a comprehensive partnership tool for external entities looking to connect with lab experts and facilities, as well as thousands of pieces of lab IP for licensing. 556.   This dual focus on early-stage R&D and entrepreneurial development provides innovators with the platform they need to take their ideas from the lab and onto the commercialization pathway 557.   DOE provides loans to facilitate clean energy technology and manufacturing, and its regulations help foster advanced building technologies, energy efficient appliances, and more. These help accelerate innovation, move solutions toward the marketplace, and ultimately create new jobs. DOE funded research and development is subject to Bayh-Dole where, to incentivize commercialization, the inventive entity has the opportunity to take title to the invention while the U.S. Government retains a government purpose license. 558.   Another interesting example is the American-Made Challenges award programme, designed by DOE's Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy to incentivize innovators nationwide, encouraging them to push forward with ideas that address important energy and resource issues. Here in this example, inventors retain full IP ownership and the challenge winners are awarded cash prizes to tackle barriers and manufacturing at scale issues. The challenge winners are also offered a connection to the American-Made Network, which allows energy entrepreneurs to tap into interdisciplinary resources for problem-solving support to develop and commercialize their ideas and products. 559.   A recent winner of one of the American-Made Challenges in the "solar" area was the Solar Inventions Team, whose aim was to Produce a more stable and reliable solar module. 560.   The team created a new design that effectively divides a PV cell into multiple sections without physically breaking it, preventing hot spots and improving efficiency and safety. Solar Inventions developed, built, and tested the configurable current cell (C3) prototype with university partners, including Georgia Institute of Technology and the University of North Carolina Charlotte, private facilities, and National Laboratory facilities and expertise. Solar Inventions has launched its C3 panels, acquired customers, and is working to secure a licensing deal as it awaits patent approval. Conclusion 561.   The types of policies and practices just noted will continue to be important to underpin and encourage companies, inventors, and researchers to innovate and address the climate crisis. 562.   The United States continues to learn from our experiences encouraging and facilitating innovation in the green tech sector, where, as I noted earlier, this administration is placing great focus and investment so that we can prepare to address current and future environmental challenges, such as the need for renewable energy, reducing air pollution, or improving recycling processes. Thank you, and we look forward to hearing from other Members on this topic.

The Council took note of the statements made.
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

26 https://www.energy.gov/eere/articles/accelerating-innovation-through-american-made-challenges

27 74 FR 64666.

28 Id.

29 See Green Petition Report Summary [PDF] [updated May 7, 2012; Report date: April 26, 2012], at https://www.uspto.gov/patents/initiatives/green-technology-pilot-program-closed#heading-5

30 See https://www.uspto.gov/patents/initiatives/green-technology-pilot-program-closed#heading-5