Intellectual property and sustainable development – will we be able to create a better world together?

Intellectual property and sustainable development – will we be able to create a better world together?

04 June 2024 - Aleksandra Dmochowska

Undeniably, we live in times of rapid and dramatic changes at all levels of day-to-day functioning. Thanks to the development of technology, fast transmission of information and easy sharing of knowledge, social and economic changes have accelerated. At the same time, with the wave of new opportunities and chances, we as humanity face new challenges related to, among others, taking care of the environment, the need to respect human rights and security challenges, especially in the area of digital threats. The need for a new approach to the economy, economics and business was recognized by the United Nations when developing and implementing the idea of sustainable development or self-sustaining development.

The implementation of the UN Sustainable Development Goals is to ensure further economic growth, but provided that the environment is respected and prosperity is also ensured for future generations. Sounds interesting, but what about practice? And how can the law encourage business to develop ethically, innovatively and in an environmentally safe way?

ESG – one abbreviation, many meanings

The existing indicators of assessing the situation of enterprises concerned their financial condition: profit, stock market value or the number of products and services sold. By implementing and promoting the Sustainable Development Goals, new assessment methods have been proposed, which constitute the abbreviation ESG, i.e.:

  • Environmental – protection and prevention of environmental degradation
  • Social – social responsibility and respect for human rights
  • Governance – corporate governance (cybersecurity, anti-corruption, ethical standards, etc.)

Systematically, subsequent companies, starting with the largest ones, are obliged to report non-financially and implement solutions for sustainable development. According to the latest report “Business in balance. How to accelerate the ESG transformation?” published in April 2024 by Ayming Polska, in cooperation with the Polish ESG Association, 78% of companies plan to implement solutions in the field of sustainable transformation, while 57% indicate that the key challenge is to provide financing for this operation.

It is optimistic that companies that have already implemented ESG reporting notice significant benefits of such a business-strategic approach. Organizations thus manage to identify new areas for innovation (new products and services), optimize existing processes, increase employee involvement or accelerate digitization processes. As experts in industrial and intellectual property, we can see how innovators try to face these problems in practice. Therefore, ESG transformation can be treated not only as an additional obligation, but also as an opportunity to develop and optimize costs (e.g. by reducing energy consumption, using resources more efficiently in production processes or minimizing the carbon footprint), thanks to deepening awareness and knowledge.

The role of intellectual property in ESG transformation

In order to meet the requirements of the future, innovative solutions are needed, both at the company level and technological. Patent attorneys and lawyers specializing in IP law help to secure the rights to inventions, protect trade secrets or introduce the necessary provisions to contracts. It is this type of specialists who can provide advice to entrepreneurs facing the challenges of the ESG Directive in the first place. In addition to internal and organizational issues, it is also worth taking care of optimal financial conditions, for this purpose, entrepreneurs can already take advantage of various subsidies and reliefs that enable the commercialization of modern solutions. Among the tools for financing the ESG transformation supporting the development of intellectual property are, among others:

  • IP Box relief – regarding support in covering the results of R&D activities with legal protection (patentsutility modelsindustrial designs, topographies of integrated circuits or computer programs)
  • Prototype Relief – for trial production of new or improved products
  • Research and development relief – regarding, for example, the use of alternative materials to reduce the environmental impact or change in production processes by minimizing the amount of production waste or consumption of natural resources

In the process of ESG transformation, the issue of cooperation between business and IP law experts becomes even more important than before. Nowadays, the dynamic development of numerous new technical, business, product or computer solutions is a fact. Each of these innovations can bring the company profits, and their appropriate protection, become the key to success in the domestic and foreign markets. In a free market, the “first come, first served” rule works perfectly – whoever first comes up with and protects a new solution can gain the greatest financial and image benefits.

The big question is: what awaits us in 5, 10 or 15 years?

In fact, companies that want to be present on the market in the perspective of a few or a dozen or so years cannot afford not to invest in development. The current reality gives a huge scope for cooperation with patent attorneys and specialists in intellectual property law – because in this matter the most dynamic development is taking place. Not only can experts in this field help you obtain protection rights, but they become strategic business partners who tell you how to manage a diverse portfolio of intellectual property rights to make the highest possible profits, how to protect yourself from violations and unfair competition, and how to avoid violating someone else’s rights yourself. Such cooperation will be particularly important for entrepreneurs engaging their resources in technological innovations (computer programs, algorithms, artificial intelligence) and green technologies (e.g. devices reducing electricity consumption, new production machines, filters limiting carbon dioxide emissions). We would all like to see how the world, through increased responsibility and ethical conduct of enterprises, is changing to a place that is more friendly to the environment and people.

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