Home » News & Speeches » How intellectual property can strengthen our response to climate change and COVID-19

The International Chamber of Commerce (ICC) commemorates World Intellectual Property (IP) Day, by recognising the role that IP plays in encouraging innovation and creativity.

Taking place every 26 April, World IP raises awareness on how copyrights, patent systems, trademarks, and designs contribute to economic growth and innovation. This year, World IP Day will explore how a balanced and robust IP system can contribute to a green economy and encourage climate-friendly innovation to shape a net zero future.

To mark the occasion, ICC spoke with Bertrand Piccard, founder of Solar Impulse Foundation, and David Nabarro, special envoy to the World Health Organization (WHO) on COVID-19, about the importance of IP rights to help deliver the innovation needed to address the biggest challenges to lives and livelihoods.

Private sector climate action and innovation

As part of a special ICC Academy Livecast, Mr Piccard joined Majda Dabaghi, Director, ICC Green & Inclusive Growth, to discuss Solar Impulse Foundation’s 1,000 clean and profitable solutions, that create jobs and help to address the climate challenge. The conversation examined the importance of IP rights as a driver for companies to innovate solutions to confront persisting environmental challenges and help us build back better from the coronavirus pandemic.

The shock of COVID-19 only underscores the imperative to make climate action everyone’s business. As we move from emergency response to recovery, businesses are reaffirming their commitment to climate action and embracing new opportunities to drive innovation, increase competitiveness, and stimulate growth. Mr Picard explained that the Solar Impulse Foundation has the tools and resources to assist many of these companies complete a just transition from old polluting infrastructures to modern, climate-friendly models.

We already have a portfolio of 450 solutions that we are bringing to governments and to big corporations, to show them what tools are already available to help them achieve more ambitious climate goals and  boost economic growth,” said Mr Piccard.

According to the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO), international patent filings for green energy technologies grew to 16,940 applications in 2019, representing a +1.3% from 2018. Despite this year-on-year increase, patent filings for alternative energy technologies have dropped 18% since 2013.

As the official United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) ‘Focal Point’ for Business and Industry, ICC is committed to working together with business, government, and civil society to raise climate ambition and action. ICC believes that coherent policy frameworks, including IP rights and appropriate fiscal policies, can help accelerate private sector innovation and break-through technologies, as well as the dissemination of existing technologies.

“IP is a driver for companies to be innovative, invent something new,” said Mr Piccard. “It is important that governments create the right policy framework and necessary incentives to upscale innovation,” he said.

An effective COVID-19 requires strong IP protections

In response to the devastating economic and human consequences of COVID-19, ICC is working with the WHO to collect information on how businesses are responding to the pandemic and to help identify solutions to prevent its spread.

While the demand for medicines and medical supplies is increasing, production is decreasing. As panic stricken buyers stock up on medicines, the ones who need them the most may not have access at all.

Dr David Nabarro, special envoy to WHO on COVID-19, released a special video message to the ICC Commission on Intellectual Property, which emphasised the importance of IP rights in protecting against the manufacturing and dissemination of counterfeit essential medical supplies, such as face masks and medicines.

“[Supply] shortages and high levels of demand provide opportunities for an increase in the manufacture and distribution of counterfeit and adulterated goods everywhere. This is manifested and driven by consumer’s needs or perceived need in time of crisis,” explained Dr Nabarro.

In addition, the COVID-19 pandemic has triggered stockpiling of medicines across the globe, especially in the developing countries, where medicines are already not easily available. Face masks and medicines which are not only fake, but also ineffective have been seized across Asia and Africa.

During the video, Dr Nabarro applauded the efforts of law enforcement officials around the world to confront these harmful suppliers:

“ICC and the WHO recognise, and law enforcement seizures have already shown, that this pandemic provides the opportunity for criminals to exploit shortages in genuine products and parts to distribute fake and adulterated goods.

ICC’s Business Action to Stop Counterfeiting and Piracy (BASCAP) initiative to raise awareness of the economic and social harm of counterfeiting and piracy. Since its inception, BASCAP has petitioned for greater commitments by local, national, and international authorities in the enforcement and protection of intellectual property rights.

As a result of the supply disruption caused by COVID-19, ICC believes that there will be an uptick in the production and manufacturing of fake and counterfeit goods. ICC BASCAP will continue to strengthen information-sharing between governments, agencies, and businesses to stop the production and dissemination of these dangerous counterfeit goods.

Read ICC Secretary General John W.H. Denton AO’s op-ed on the 50th anniversary of Earth Day.

For more information, please contact:

  • Timothy Conley
  • Global Communications Officer
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