Meena Alnajar is an IPilogue Writer, IP Innovation Clinic Fellow, and a 2L JD Candidate at Osgoode Hall Law School.
Leaves may be falling in time for autumn, but Canada just got a whole lot greener. On September 9, 2021, ESG Clean Energy, LLC (“ESG”), a corporation responsible for clean energy solutions for distributed power generation, announced that they signed an exclusive licensing deal with Viking Energy Group, Inc. (“Viking”) for use of ESG’s carbon dioxide-free power generation technology in all of Canada. This licence will foster green energy developments by using ESG’s cutting-edge patented technology to generate net-zero carbon emissions from services such as plastic recycling and cryptocurrency mining.
The agreement gives Viking the exclusive patent rights to ESG’s technology and knowledge regarding clean energy. The licence is exclusive for all of Canada, which means an unlimited number of clean energy systems can be built throughout the country. Why did ESG choose to licence its patent rights in such a way? What does each party gain? According to ESG’s President, Nick Suderi, the agreement “allows us to provide more effective energy solutions outside the United States by leveraging the experience, expertise, and relationships within the entire Viking and Camber organization.” ESG is, in a sense, trying to garner input to enrich green technology for wider audiences. Further, ESG is recognizing that producing green technology should be a global effort to help combat climate change, a global crisis.
An exclusive patent license means no person other than the named licensee can use the intellectual property during the patent’s life span. ESG’s granting of a nationwide exclusive patent right is broad, which may appear to risk their IP protection. However, wide-scale issues like climate change may need a push to accessible IP and innovative technology. Global issues often alter the patent landscape, encouraging the side-stepping of many patent laws in favour of the public good. More recently, COVID-19 has prompted discussions regarding waiving the patent rights for COVID-19 vaccines to hasten vaccine production and manufacturing around the world. However, critics pushed back to the idea of a waiver, arguing that IP rights are a key reason for investment in research and production. Mutual agreements for exclusive and broad patent licenses, such as the green technology agreement between ESG and Viking, may be the compromise to promote faster solutions to the world’s growing climate crisis.
ESG and Viking may arguably be driven to increase green technologies by increased profits via more IP licenses and contracting parties. This does not negate the potential positive benefits that may flow from this exclusive licensing for green technology. The International Renewable Energy Agency (“IRENA”) has stressed that decarbonisation in the form of low-carbon technologies needs to happen now. Not only are decarbonisation technologies needed to limit global warming, but to protect the global economy as well. IRENA’s research estimates that delaying decarbonisation could cost trillions of dollars due to the devaluation of electrical infrastructure. IRENA suggests technological learning is a critical strategy to implement these technologies. ESG’s exclusive patent licensing, with the goal of knowledge sharing and technological development, may thus hold the key to improving our environment.