Parthasarathy: Geoengineering patents could follow the U.S. atomic energy model

May 23, 2012

Shobita Parthasarathy told Nature magazine that the geoengineering field "urgently needs" to define intellectual property rights for technologies that could have far-reaching consequences for the planet.

The issue of whether such patents should belong to private inventors and companies or be regulated as a public good made news last week after a project by the Stratospheric Particle Injection for Climate Engineering (SPICE) was cancelled over a pending patent application. Climate scientists largely have failed to reach a consensus on a geoengineering patent policy, despite what Parthasarathy called a "dramatically increasing" number of patent applications.

According to the author, "One possible solution, [Parthasarathy] says, is to develop a unique system for handling geoengineering patents, akin to the way that atomic-energy patents are controlled in the United States. That system puts certain technologies off-limits, and allows the government to take control of some intellectual property. 'I don't think the solution is to get rid of IP,' she says."

Parthasarathy, an associate professor of public policy and former co-director of the Science, Technology and Public Policy (STPP) Program at the Ford School, is currently a visiting scholar with the American Bar Association.