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Sustainability and IP Law: What You Must Know

Sustainability and IP

As companies increasingly prioritize environmental, social, and governance (ESG) goals, sustainability has become a crucial consideration in intellectual property strategy and management. If you are an IP attorney, here are some of the key elements of what you must know about sustainability and IP Law:

  • Sustainable patents – There is growing focus on patenting green technologies, from renewable energy to eco-friendly materials. However, standards and restrictions vary across jurisdictions. Counsel clients on sustainable patenting approaches.
  • Responsible licensing – Licenses can encourage adoption of green tech and sustainable practices through field-of-use restrictions, diligence requirements, and royalties tied to ESG criteria. But you must weigh ethical concerns around access.
  • Trade secrets v. transparency – Companies want to protect their sustainable innovations as trade secrets. But transparency around sustainability practices also matters to consumers. Find the right balance.
  • Eco-friendly trademarks – Counsel clients to consider their brands’ sustainability associations. Trademarks deemed “greenwashing” face backlash. Authenticity is key.
  • IP valuation – With intangibles comprising over 80% of S&P 500 market value, integrating sustainability into IP valuation models is critical. Various approaches are emerging.
  • Social responsibility – Ethical use of IP-protected indigenous knowledge and biodiversity is an issue. Ensure IP policies align with corporate social responsibility values.
  • IP policy trends – Watch for patent law reforms regarding green technology, trademarks for eco-labels, geographical indication protection, and more. Be proactive regarding changes to policies.
Get Involved

Sustainability is redefining business, and IP law is no exception. By keeping abreast of sustainability issues and approaches, IP attorneys can provide valuable counsel to clients on leveraging IP to enable socially and environmentally beneficial innovation. The Emerging Technologies committee of AIPLA has established a subcommittee to specifically focus on IP issues related to climate change and sustainability.  Robb Evans, from Global Patent Solutions, serves as the co-chair of this group.  Please contact Robb directly if you would like to get involved.