LEGAL IDEAS FORUM

Making Innovation Work For A Greener Future In Nigeria.

1.0. INTRODUCTION

In the words of Andy Hannah, CEO of Plextronics; “ Today’s clean-tech Intellectual Property is tomorrow’s oil”.
Nigeria is a country saddled with a lot of environmental issues, ranging from oil spillage in the Niger Delta region, gas flaring, deforestation and overpopulation to air, soil, water and noise pollution leading to devastating consequences in the country.
In a study conducted by the world health organization in 2016, Onitsha in Anambra Nigeria, ranked 1st to be the world’s most polluted city in the world in terms of air pollution, Kaduna ranked 5th, Aba 6th and Umuahia 16th all among the top 20 polluted cities. More so, close to 100 thousand Nigerians die annually from household air pollution resulting mostly from cooking with inefficient cooking stoves; inadequate power supply has led to reliance of Nigerians on candles, lanterns and most of all generators powered by fuel or diesel leading to the release of harmful gases in to the air1. Aside these, the number of vehicles, especially faulty ones releasing carbon monoxide into the air is on the rise. Thus, if there is any country in need of a solution to environmental issues, it is Nigeria.
This essay explores how Green Technology can be that solution, if we can make innovation work for a green future in Nigeria.

 

What is Green Technology?
Green Technology also know as Clean or Environmental Technology is the application of environmental science and green chemistry to monitor and conserve the natural environment and curb the negative impacts of human involvement. The technology is used to breathe life back into a damaged ecosystem. It’s use limits global warming caused by greenhouse gas emissions and allows us to save non-renewable energy and find alternative sources of energy such as solar, wind, biomass etc.
It’s numerous benefits include; management and recycling of waste materials to be used for beneficial purposes like creation of plant fertilizers, purification of water, purification of air with special focus on reduction of carbon emission, conservation of energy by creating alternatives to devices that consume a lot of energy e.g electric cars and rejuvenation of ecosystems through planting of trees to turn animal extinction etc.

 

Being a form of technology, the growth of Green Technology to enable a greener future largely depends on innovation. It is trite that the intellectual property system of an important determinant of it’s level of innovation.
According to World Intellectual Property Organization ( WIPO), Intellectual Property refers to the creations of the mind, inventions, literary and artistic works and symbols, names, images and designs in[1] Wayim. Y.N. (2016).” A Brief Analysis of the Intellectual Property Law in Nigeria”https://www.thelawywersmagazine.com. Retrieved on 25 April, 2020.

 

It is the creation of the mind manifested in a form that has a physical existence and possesses exclusive property rights recognized by the corresponding fields of law, in that, owners of Intellectual Property are granted exclusive rights to their works restricting any use by other person’s without owners consent or due reference. The aim is to grant innovative works legal protection inorder to encourage the owners. Intellectual Property rights include patents, copyright, trademarks etc.

The correlation between the two systems is not far-fetched seeing how highly carbon dependent today’s technologically driven world has made the environment, posing man-kind with the challenge of moving to a greener environment. To confront this challenge, Intellectual Property Rights can be a vital enabler of the growth of innovation in the field of green technology by unleashing the creativity needed to develop efficient technology to aid a cleaner, greener environment. Thus the use of innovation to enable a greener future in Nigeria demands a more efficient Intellectual Property system.
This is the idea behind the concept of Green Intellectual Property which connotes a specialized system for the protection of innovations in the field of Green technology. It is a concept where innovations which are helpful to the environment in one way or the other or cause an appreciable reduction in the adverse impact on the environment are legally protected. The primary aim is to promote technological innovation in the field of Green technology, disseminate and promote Green technology and encourage consumers to favour products and services which integrate green technologies.

 

Aside the encouragement of innovation in green technology, it also encourages the diffusion of green technology through open Innovation. Green technology falls within the bracket of open Innovation, where companies work with external stakeholders and collaborators to enhance innovation. This is largely due to the complexities surrounding environmental technologies. Intellectual property rights work as a source of invention and diffusion through open Innovation. Resulting from the global scope of environmental concerns, open Innovation supported by intellectual property rights is required to amplify the invention and diffusion of these technologies. WIPO GREEN, Eco-Patent Common Initiative by IBM are examples of collaborative agreements that involve the public and private sector to stimulate development and diffusion of green technologies.

 

Another strategy that could be implemented in Nigeria’s intellectual property system to encourage innovation that will enable a greener future is the fast-tracking of green patent applications and fee required. In Nigeria, acquisition of patent is governed by the Patent and Design Act Cap P2 LRN 2004. Section 1 of the Act prescribes the element of newness and inventive activity for an invention to be patentable. The Act lays down the procedure to be complied with in order to secure a patent protection in respect of an invention. However, the procedure takes a lot of time and cost and sometimes end up being rejected for lack of requirements for patenting which can be discouraging for inventors. This was also the case in many countries. However, since 2009, many patent offices of industrialized countries have put in place strategies to fast-track ‘green’ patent applications such as the United States Patent and

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[2] Singh & Associates. (2012). Green IP- a new way to blossom. https://www.lexicology.com. Retrieved on 25 April, 2020.
[3] Jorge Orendan. (2019). The Role of IP Rights in Green Technology Innovation. https://www.metispartners.com. Retrieved on 25 April, 2020.
Trademark Office (USPTO), UK Intellectual Property Office, the Australian IP Office, the Canadian IP Office, Japan, Israel etc.

 

In 2012, the Brazilian National Institute of Industrial Property (INPC) announced a pilot programme to accelerate green patent applications. China’s State Intellectual Property Office (SIPO) has launched a similar programme. The common objective of these schemes is to allow patents covering the green technologies to be examined as a matter of priority. Consequently, the time needed to obtain a granted patent could be significantly reduced from several years to just a few months. The advantages of the reduced examination process are numerous as it allows patent applicants to start licensing their technologies sooner, thereby reducing the time to reach the market.
More so, processing a granted patent may also help start-up companies to raise private capital. Green patent fast-track schemes have been expected to accelerate the diffusion of green technologies. Considering it’s myriad of benefits, Nigeria can also start a special scheme to accelerate Green IP protection process. This system can also include creation of a database having innovations related only to green technologies so as to facilitate innovators, end users and leading players in the field of Green technology.4
When innovation of green technology is enhanced, we stand a chance to enjoy a greener future, some of the benefits of which include;

 

• Energy conservation through the use of green technology like wind energy, solar panels which convert energy from the sun to electrical or mechanical energy, LED lighting, which is a green technology that uses less energy than traditional incandescent and have been used in vertical farming and the combat of malaria,
• Electrical vehicles which will drastically reduce the level of carbon monoxide emissions into the air,
• Vertical farming which is an eco-friendly concept of growing produce in stacked vertical layers rather than horizontally, this increasing sustainability, conserving soil and reducing water use among others.

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[3] Antoine. D. (2013). Fast-tracking Green Patent Application. United Kingdom: London School of Economics and Political Science.
[4]Moe Long. (2019). “What is Green Technology and Whatt are the Benefits and Examples”.<https://www.electropages.com>. Retrieved on 25 April, 2020.

 

Conclusion
In the words of Environmental Analyst, Jorge Orendan, when it comes to climate change, Intellectual Property can be a matter of life and death. If we must envisage a greener future for Nigeria, measures must be put in place to encourage innovations, investments as well as awareness in the field of Green technology and an eco-friendly environment.

 

About the Author

Kalu Rejoice Chioma is a law student of the University of Nigeria. She has interests in corporate law, human rights, intellectual property law, public speaking, research and advocacy, and a strong desire to rise to the best of her abilities in the legal world and beyond. 

 

 

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