10 Sep 2008   |   News

Environmental patents donated by leading companies

Bosch, DuPont and Xerox Corporation have joined a business-inspired movement to put environmentally important IP into the public domain.

Eco-Patent Commons: a first-of-its-kind business effort to help the environment

Bosch, DuPont and Xerox Corporation have joined Eco-Patent Commons, a business-inspired movement to put environmentally important intellectual property into the public domain and each donated patents.

The newly pledged patents include a Xerox technology that significantly reduces the time and cost of removing hazardous waste from water and soil; technology developed by DuPont that converts certain non-recyclable plastics into fertiliser; automotive technologies from Bosch that help lower fuel consumption, reduce emissions, or convert waste heat from vehicles into useful energy.

At the same a founder member of Eco-Patent Commons Sony Corporation said it would denote intellectual property focused on the recycling of optical disks.

The Eco-Patent Commons was launched in January 2008 by IBM, Nokia, Pitney Bowes and Sony in partnership with the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD), to share innovation in support of sustainable development.

The objective is to promote the use of existing technologies to protect the environment, and encourage collaboration between businesses that foster new innovations.

The latest pledges more than double the number of environmentally friendly patents available to the public. They are available on a dedicated Web site hosted by the WBCSD.

Patents pledged may involve innovations directly related to environmental solutions or may be innovations in manufacturing or business processes where the solution also provides an environmental benefit, such as pollution prevention, or the more efficient use of materials or energy.

Since the launch of the Eco-Patent Commons many of the donors have been contacted directly about their patents and at least three patents have been used by others.

“We are pleased that the commons is beginning to have an impact,” said Björn Stigson, president of the WBCSD. “We hope it will be a positive contribution to the challenge of technology diffusion around the world.”

The Xerox patents

Xerox has pledged 11 patents that make it possible to cut the time it takes to remove toxic waste from soil and water from years to months. The technology, 2-PHASE ExtractionT  has been used by the company to remove more than 98 per cent of volatile organic solvents from shallow groundwater in contaminated sites.

The 2-PHASE Extraction system uses a strong vacuum that simultaneously removes both the soil vapors and water in the form of mist. With it, Xerox has been able to reduce overall remediation times by as much as 80 per cent.

“Xerox has made a long-term commitment to environmentally responsible operations. The Eco-Patent Commons gives us the opportunity to share what we have learned,” said Patricia Calkins, Xerox’s vice president of Environment, Health and Safety.

“We developed the 2-PHASE technology more than 15 years ago to help us remediate sites more quickly and at less expense. We believe it will be a valuable tool for others, such as the local dry cleaners or gas stations, which need to clean up volatile organic compounds.”

The DuPont Patents

DuPont has contributed four patents, one of which uses enzymes to accelerate the conversion of certain non-recyclable plastics to fertilisers. Plastics used in packaging, appliances, and small durable consumer goods can be more quickly and completely decomposed using this technology, potentially reducing the amount of plastic that remains as landfill solid waste.

The three other patents involve the company’s Lux technology for pollution detection. When exposed to an environmental stress, such as a pollutant, the patented microorganism will luminesce, indicating the presence of the pollutant. This has applications in monitoring soil, air and water quality; toxicity screening; pharmaceutical and agrochemical design; and manufacturing and fermentation process control.

Uma Chowdhry, DuPont’s Senior Vice President and Chief Science & Technology Officer, said, “The patents we have pledged are new technologies that utilise the latest thinking in the areas of biotechnology and materials science – technologies that can be socialised and adapted to reduce the global environmental footprint of the human population.”

The Bosch Patents

The patents pledged by Bosch include energy and engine management in the vehicles, including the manufacture of injection systems and particulate filters. Among other uses, the patents may help lower fuel consumption, reduce emissions, or convert waste heat from vehicles into useful energy.

“The free access allows the broader use of patents previously protected for Bosch. This will benefit the environment,” said Peter Marks, member of the Bosch board of management with responsibility for environmental protection.

The Sony Patents

Sony has pledged three more patents that enable optical disks to be recycled by the retrieval of pigment composition and metal from the disc's reflective film.

Membership of the Eco-Patent Commons is open to all individuals and companies pledging one or more patents. The selection and submission of each organisation’s patents is at the organisation’s discretion.

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