Roadmap for Copenhagen - Driving towards Success

Sep 16, 2009

Recently the House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming held a hearing titled Roadmap for Copenhagen — Driving towards Success. At this hearing, the Obama Administration and Congress reiterated their support of intellectual property protections, citing its importance to economic growth and prosperity.  This is an encouraging signal for the United States' IP-related industries and their millions of employees working to drive our nation’s economic growth.

As part of the current global talks to address climate change, some developing countries are making proposals to weaken IP rights for clean-energy technologies at the detriment of American innovators and workers.  These proposals would allow foreign governments to expropriate “green” technologies created by American companies and entrepreneurs – potentially costing America our innovation, economic growth and most importantly, jobs here in the U.S.

In his opening remarks, Congressman Jim Sensenbrenner, the ranking Republican on the House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming, recognized the threat to IP from developing countries, and noted that this effort is counterproductive. Mr. Sensenbrenner accurately points out that it is IP that provides the incentives for new technologies to be created:

Developing countries are also leading efforts to weaken or even destroy intellectual property rights (IPR) by seeking to gain free access to American and other developed countries IPR for clean-energy technologies.  Their proposals include preventing patenting in developing countries, requiring compulsory licensing, and ensuring access to new technologies on non-exclusive royalty-free terms.  All of which ignore the fact that new technologies will only be developed if there are incentives to create them.

Congressman Sensenbrenner is spot on, and it is reassuring to see that the Administration also understands the need for strong IP laws. During the hearing, Sensenbrenner asked Todd Stern, U.S. Special Envoy for Climate Change, how the Administration viewed the position of these developing nations. Stern was just as adamant, referring to IP as "central to our system." Mr. Stern went on record emphasizing the administration’s commitment to IP protection:

We do not support those positions [positions with regard to compulsory licensing and/or forced tech transfer], Mr. Sensenbrenner.  Look, I think intellectual property is central to our system.  Indeed, if you look at this problem, which is the way I look at it, I think the way we look at it, it is fundamentally an issue that is only going to be solved through innovation, with the development of new technologies promoted through the right rules of the road, to be sure.  You cannot have a problem whose solution is based on innovation if you interfere with intellectual property rights. 

Having said that, we also have to recognize that it is terribly important that we do find ways completely consistent with intellectual property protection, where we seek to diffuse and disseminate technologies to places, if needed.  But we do not have    I do not think I have any difference of opinion with what you have stated.

Congress and the White House remain steadfast in their support of IP, and this support is crucial as we move towards Copenhagen and beyond.

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