Author: Dr. Eugenijus Keras, Patent Consultant at METIDA
Climate change is often recognised as one of the most serious problems facing mankind of our times. Thus, energy from renewable sources may contribute to the solution of the climate change problems.
As for energy from renewable sources, it may be further noted that use of oil for generation of energy will decrease: it cannot be expected that a vessel will always be full if it is emptied quicker than it is filled up. The price is another argument for development of renewable energy sources. Recently, I have read a text published by a professor in the area of energy in which the indicated prices of renewable energy are several times higher than the prices actually prevailing in the market. If we looked at the situation closer, we would see that investments in renewable energy (if you have the possibility to use it personally) will be several (or probably a dozen) times more profitable than a deposit in a bank.
Thus, there are three reasons which should determine greater dominance of energy from renewable sources, i.e. climate change, a decrease in oil resources and low price of renewable energy sources. Let’s look how this trend is reflected in invention patents.
The World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) has even established a separate unit engaging exclusively in green technologies. This helps the market players to find and reach each other easier. Major attention to activities which seem not to be the main activities of such organization suggests the significance of green technologies.
The report on the analysis of renewable energy-related patents ordered by the WIPO (published in 2014) provides summary information which gives good understanding of the existing situation and suggests real future trends. The report provides data on the four main technologies of energy from renewable sources: biofuels, solar thermal power, solar photovoltaic energy and wind energy. The report puts emphasis on enormous growth in the number of patent applications related to energy from renewable sources: during the period of 2009–2014 the number of filed applications was higher than the number of patent applications filed during the last 30 years. In geographical terms, there is a growing trend that Eastern countries become more and more active applicants, in particular, China and Korea. China holds a dominant position in all areas of the afore-mentioned technologies except wind energy. On the other hand, despite the intensity of patent applications in the afore-mentioned countries, the greatest number of proprietors of such technologies is not in Eastern countries.
In the light of the topics covered by the patent applications, it is noted that three of four technologies are the most evolving (wind energy technologies have remained concentrated, focused on a small number of technologies). Photovoltaic technologies are characterized by the greatest growth in patent applications. Solar thermal technologies are particularly open for novelties: 16 of 20 largest proprietors of the technology are new market players.
Biofuel technologies are characterized by a large number of patent applications filed by science and research organizations; this suggests the level of maturity of the technology. It is interesting how this trend will enable effectively taking advantage of the invention commercialization possibilities in the future.
It is noted that the technologies producing energy from wind emerge as a result of cooperation with organizations that develop new materials and technologies. Another definitively dominant wind energy area prevailing in patent applications is wind plants constructed in open waters (seas, oceans).
The same trends are identified in the majority of sources, i.e. energy from renewable sources is experiencing a boom as never before including all the consequences which may significantly contribute to creation of a healthier environment for people if this comes quickly enough despite contradictory political opinions (while preparing this article it became clear that the USA is withdrawing from the Paris Agreement).
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