The Eco-Patent Commons, part of the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD), launched in January 2008. The purpose of the program is for businesses to join forces in collaborating on innovative processes that benefit both the environment and businesses. Originally, IBM, Nokia, Pitney Bowes, and Sony joined the WBCSD in its efforts but now 11 companies participate in this unique program. Since its inception, Bosch, Dow, DuPont, Fuji-Xerox, Ricoh, Taisei, and Xerox joined the Eco-Patent Commons team.
Since its inception, these 11 companies have pledged 100 environmentally friendly patents, which are (or will be) available in the public domain. In a business environment where patents and corporate intellectual property are guarded property, this program is truly groundbreaking.
While many of the patents are extremely technical in nature, several are more easily understand by those of us without advanced engineering degrees. For example, Bosch has made available a patent for a vehicular climate control system that uses waste heat in the heating and cooling circuitry of the automobile. Another Bosch patent that has been made available through the Eco-Patent Commons is for a customized emergency exit sign with LED lighting and a built-in smoke detector.
Xerox has multiple contributions to the project that deal with removing groundwater and soil contaminants. Admittedly, when I think of Xerox I think of copy machines. I even worked for Xerox several years ago and I had no clue that there were segments of the company working on this type of technology.
Surprisingly, there is no membership fee associated with membership in the Eco-Patent Commons program. The WBCSD may charge a fee at some point in the future but at this time, interested organizations merely read over the program rules and submit an application for inclusion in the program.