Nearshore Americas

Recognizing the Connection Between Intellectual Property and Green Practices

The year 2020 has been a convulsed year, to say the least. The inauguration of a new year with one of the worst fire seasons ever seen in the history of mankind, followed by the  COVID-19 pandemic and the repercussions derived from it, which we are still experiencing, have brought to the table a topic that in recent years has become stronger and more popular: that of sustainable development. Each day, there is more and more awareness of the importance of the environment, as well as of reversing the damages inflicted upon it. Concrete efforts are directed towards this end.

The involvement of  intellectual property (IP) is undeniable.  IP, which is the subject of a wide array of opposite and conflicting interests, is actually an old concept, coined in the World Commission on Environment and Development of the United Nations Organization (UN) in 1987.

Sustainable Development

According to the report of this Commission – Our Common Future –  sustainable development is defined as the satisfaction of the present generation, without compromising the capacity of future generations to satisfy their own needs. Intellectual Property has played and plays a paramount role in the development of humanity.

Patents have protected the most revolutionary inventions in human history: the steam locomotive, the electric lamp, the automobile, semiconductors, the Internet, nuclear energy, biotechnology and artificial intelligence, just to name a few.

Pharmaceutical and medical patents have helped improve life expectancy, including new treatments, medicines and vaccines that have even helped eradicate life-threatening diseases.

The protection and the possibility of economical exploitation of the inventions granted by the IP system promotes the continuation of the cycle, when innovation is found to be a profitable business.

Intellectual property, through copyright, has also promoted inclusive education. One example of the above is the Marrakesh Treaty, that creates a series of limitations and exceptions to copyright with the purpose of making printed material accessible to blind people as well as to people with any kind of visual disability.

Sui generis systems, such as those that protect traditional knowledge as well as traditional cultural expressions, have fought harsh battles to prevent modern times from shadowing or even causing the disappearance of the legacies of indigenous groups. In Costa Rica, we have the case  filed by the Boruca community against the registration of the trademark Los Diablitos, in defense of the most prominent cultural element of the group: the game of Los Diablitos.

This game is a strength game -that depicts the Spanish conquest- in which two main parties are identified: the bull, that represents the Spanish conqueror, and the Òdiablitos or devils, that represent the indigenous people.

Licenses to patents for public utility, as well as exceptions and limitations to copyright, together with the promotion of respect for communities and groups with special cultural characteristics, are tools provided by the IP system to reach a balance with modern development.

Notwithstanding the above, development has not always been sustainable and one of the big losers has been the environment.

Paying Attention to Green Practices 

The COVID-19 crisis has made evident the damage that the industries have inflicted upon the environment, among these the textile, mining and agricultural industries. In Europe and China, a considerable decrease in the levels of contamination has been reported in connection with containment measures imposed, that have reduced to a minimum vehicular circulation and have ordered the closure of industries.

Nowadays, green is “in” and each day there is more and more awareness not only of  the importance of protecting the environment and reversing the  damages inflicted upon it, but also concrete efforts are directed in that sense. In this scenario, the participation of intellectual property is undeniable.

Costa Rica, for instance, has set the goal of being a Carbon Neutral country by 2021. The use of renewable energy is part of government actions towards this end.

Since 2014, our country had 98% of  electric generation resulting from renewable energies. Technologies used have  been the product of innovation introduced to the economy by way of patents.

Enterprises also do their part in reducing their carbon footprint, by the implementation of new environment-friendly technologies such as solar panels, a patent from 1957. They have also included disposable biodegradable materials and implemented recycling.

It is evident that the trend in innovation is towards sustainability. More than ever, innovation inclines towards the search for clean technologies that enable not only the protection of the environment,  but also the reduction of production costs in the resulting devices and services, to increase the margins. This will cause the clean and green industries to become an attractive alternative, when it comes to profits.

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The limitations to intellectual property rights imposed by the law result in the democratization of the access to culture and technology.

Licenses to patents for public utility, as well as exceptions and limitations to copyright, together with the promotion of respect for communities and groups with special cultural characteristics, are tools provided by the IP system to reach a balance with modern development.

In this scenario, the role of government takes center stage, as the main responsible party for promoting and incentivizing research and development, as well as providing, through regular updating of legal texts, effective and quick options to achieve protection of intellectual goods that result in benefits for all.




Monserrat Soto

Monserrat Soto is an Associate at ECIJA in Costa Rica. She received her Law Degree by the University of Costa Rica with honorary distinction in her graduate thesis on copyright and associated rights. In 2018, she graduated with honors with a degree as Specialist in Commercial Law.

Her experience is centered on private law, with emphasis in corporate, mercantile, and contractual law, as well as intellectual property and real estate. In a ten years of professional career she has gained broad experience in the handling of local and international clientele.

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