Battery recycling and reducing gold in chips are among the technollogies HP has given to a shared patent scheme
Hewlett-Packard is waiving royalties on technology for a battery recycling point, and instead giving the patent to an initiative which aims to copy the benefits of open source development, by making patents for sustainable technology available without royalties.
The World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) announced late last week that HP will join the likes of IBM, Nokia and Sony in making some of its patented technology freely available under the Eco-Patent Commons scheme. The scheme, launched in January 2008, is a joint effort between the WBCSD and IBM, Nokia, Pitney Bowes and Sony.
“The premise of the Commons is that the free sharing of these patents leads to new collaborations and innovation aimed at helping others become more eco-efficient and/or operate in a more sustainable way,” said Björn Stigson, president of the WBCSD.
HP is contributing three patents to the scheme that has attracted over a hundred such donations so far. The tech giant’s contributions are the patent for a battery recycling station which allows consumers to swap used batteries for new ones or credit.
The company has also submitted the patents for a process which it claims could help eliminate the need for anti-oxidant metal coatings during certain stages of microchip and circuit board assembly.
The illegal dumping and break-down of computer equipment in developing countries has been linked to the search for precious metals in hardware. Eliminating the use of gold and other materials in computer systems could potentially curb the trade in discarded equipment which has health implications for the workers concerned and poses dangers to the environment from the leeching of materials into water supplies as well toxic substances released from burning.
HP also contributed a system that monitors “energy consumption associated with bad welds on assembly lines” which it said has an impact on the energy efficiency of some manufacturing processes.
According to the WBCSD companies are not expected to donate “their crown jewels” in terms of commercially lucrative patents but rather those that could have benefits for society but don’t have a high financial potential.
“Leading businesses and Universities may hold some patents that provide environmental benefit and do not represent an essential source of business advantage for them,” the organisation claims.
Open Source Model
The WBCSD adds that the open source approach to software development was an inspiration for the scheme. “As has been demonstrated by the open source software community, the free sharing of knowledge can provide a fertile ground for new collaboration and innovation,” the organisation states. “Sharing environmental patents can help others become more eco-efficient and operate in a more environmentally sustainable manner — enabling technology innovation to meet social innovation.”
In May a German court found in favour of Siemens, in a case that critics say will allow patentability of any kind of software in that country, contrary to the stated policy of the European Union.