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Why Patents are Important

Innovation is essential for the accelerated deployment of renewable energy technologies (RETs) that will play a key role in addressing the issues of energy security, energy access and climate change.

Technological innovation is achieved through a mix of various demand factors and technology supply factors. Various modes of innovation operate within different contexts at different stages of technology development, involving various players over different timescales.

Innovation can occur at all stages of the technology lifecycle of RET, ranging from breakthroughs in basic technology inventions and improved research, development and demonstration (RD&D) systems, to improved market development and commercialisation. RET innovation is a multifaceted issue with different contexts in each region or country.

As part of the efforts by the International Renewable Energy Agency (IRENA) to strengthen its Member States’ technology and innovation strategies, IRENA has initiated an assessment of enabling technology frameworks, including RD&D trends and status information. The information ranges from patents and reduction of technology risk through streamlined standardisation and quality management, as well as assessments of criteria for RET innovation policy frameworks. This activity will bolster IRENA’s role as a global voice and advisory resource for renewables, through pooling knowledge, disseminating relevant information and providing practical advice and guidelines on promoting RET innovation. IRENA can support RET innovation and contribute significantly to renewable energy deployment by providing guidance on various instruments, such as standardisation, patent information, RD&D frameworks and technology cooperation.

Since 2012, IRENA has been looking into Intellectual Property Righ ts (IPR) protection and utilisation, in particular patents, as one of the relevant instruments to support technological innovation. IPR protection plays an important role throughout the entire technology lifecycle, from RD&D stages through to the commercialization and diffusion of technology. To better understand the functioning of IPR in technology development and deployment, IRENA has consulted on the use of patent information for RET deployment through various workshops and meetings with experts in the field, developed a concept of the portal system providing access to RET patent information in collaboration with the World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) and the European Patent Office (EPO), and conducted an overview of patenting activity and innovation in the field of desalination technologies run by renewable energy.

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