Over 14 800 renewable energy patents were filed globally in 2017, rising 43 percent from 10 500 in the previous year as innovation in the area races ahead. Patents filed for solar power, wind energy, biofuels, hydropower, geothermal energy, and waste-generated energy have almost doubled over the last five years, up from 7 700 in 2013 according to figures compiled by UK-headed law firm EMW Law LLP (EMW).
According to EMW, ‘green’ energy products are increasingly being patented as the cost of renewable energy production falls, incentivising companies to invest more in innovation and R&D in this sector.
The renewable energy industry is becoming more profitable and is now less reliant on government subsidies. Over half, 56 percent, of the total ‘green’ energy patents filed in 2017 were for solar power.
The rising profitability of ‘green’ energy has prompted many companies to invest in developing and patenting filings as innovation races ahead. International efforts to reduce reliance on fossil fuels and cut carbon emissions by focusing on renewables has continued to grow. As a result, more companies globally are now increasingly incentivised to invest in R&D. In addition, many companies are also now enthusiastic to highlight their ‘green’ credentials in response to growing public and consumer awareness of environmental concerns. China, for example, set emissions limits in 2017 for power companies’ use of fossil fuels, as part of efforts to slow down their consumption of coal, gas and oil, said James Geary, Principal Commercial EMW.
Companies in China filed 76 percent (11 300) of the renewable energy patents in 2017, the most of any country, while the United States (US), in second place, filed 10 percent (1 500). China is currently the world´s biggest manufacturer of solar panel technology and invested more than US$44 billion in clean-energy projects in 2017.
However, there are concerns that the US could see a drop in patenting ‘green’ products as the Trump administration looks to cut government research spending in the industry. The slight rise may also be in part due to concerns about the effect that Brexit may have on the proposed European Unitary Patent system. Some businesses may be racing to patent products, to avoid potential difficulties if obtaining patents in EU countries become more difficult than is currently the case, said Geary.