Updated: Mar 15, 2020
The past few years have seen a large increase in the number of "green patents" and "sustainability brands" around the world.
Those so-called "GREEN PATENTS" are patents on products or designs that result in tangible environmental benefits. They help incentivize innovation in eco-friendly businesses, increasing profit margins in companies that have designed original solutions. More than 14,800 renewable energy (solar, wind, biofuels, hydropower, geothermal and waste-generated energy) patents were filed worldwide in 2017 – a 43 per cent rise on the 10,500 in the previous year. Companies in China filed 76 percent (11,300) of the renewable energy patents in 2017, the most of any country, while the United States of America, in second place, filed 10 percent (1,500). China is currently the biggest manufacturer of solar panel technology and invested more than $44 bn in clean energy projects in 2017 according to the Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis. In third place was Australia, followed by India, Canada, Russia, the UK, South Korea, Malaysia and The Philippines. Worldwide clean energy products are increasingly being patented as the cost of renewable energy production falls, incentivizing companies to invest more into innovation and R&D in this sector.
Today, more than 90% of corporate CEOs publicly affirm that “SUSTAINABILITY” is fundamental for success. According to a recent report issued by the Global Analytics Company NIELSEN, consumers around the world not only care about environmental issues but also seek out companies that care about the environment too.There is no question that CORPORATE SUSTAINABILITY is in high demand across genders and generations.
Consumers in general, and millennials in particular, prefer to spend their money on brands that preach pro- social messages, apply sustainable manufacturing practices and exercise ethical business standards. Such “SUSTAINABILITY BRANDS” are products and services branded to signify a special added value in terms of environmental and social benefits to the customer and thus enable the differentiation from competitors. A brand is only perceived as being sustainable if it can credibly convey sustainability benefits which are noticeable by and relevant to the consumer. Bottom line the key to a sustainable brand is TRUST between the consumer and the brand.
Speaking of trust in brands and advertising, or lack thereof, a class action lawsuit filed with the United States District Court in Connecticut accusing Nestlé Waters North America of falsely advertising its product POLAND SPRING WATER as 100% natural spring water. “Mark J. Patane, et al. vs. Nestle Waters North America, Inc.” (3:17-cv-01381 (JAM)) was first filed in 2017 but dismissed at the time, and only recently been allowed to move forward in part by Judge Meyer’s order dated March 28, 2019 granting in part and denying in part Defendant’s Motion to Dismiss.
The lawsuit claims the popular beverage brand is “a colossal fraud perpetrated against American consumers.” It goes on to say that Poland Spring is nothing more than common groundwater disguised as nature’s bounty to “reap massive undue sales.” but actually relies on six “phony, man- made ‘springs'” to comply with the law, claim the plaintiffs. Supposedly, “not one drop” hails from an actual spring. On the other side, Nestlé Waters maintains that its product is indeed natural and meets all FDA regulations defining spring water. “Consumers can be confident in the accuracy of the labels on every bottle of Poland Spring, and that Poland Spring Brand natural spring water is just what it says it is—100% natural spring water.” At this point, it is to be determined whether the Poland Spring water was illegally mislabeled in order to reap massive undue sales. Time will tell how this story ends.
While the first and second industrial revolution were developed by destroying our planet and the environment, the third industrial revolution is being supported by the restoration of our degraded habitat.* Sustainable brands and green patent technologies are not really the IP of the future but a very current (and important) issue for our clients to pay attention to.
While regulators around the globe, such as the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) in the United States of America, are providing general guidance on environmental marketing claims on products and their packages explaining what it means to be a “green product,” “green packaging” and “environmentally friendly”, it’s vitally important for companies to be ethical and for consumers to be told the truth. The more positive the perceptions and feelings are towards a brand, the higher the likelihood of identification and loyalty amongst consumers will be.
*The First Industrial Revolution is widely taken to be the shift from our reliance on animals, human effort and biomass as primary sources of energy to the use of fossil fuels and the mechanical power this enabled. The Second Industrial Revolution occurred between the end of the 19th century and the first two decades of the 20th century, and brought major breakthroughs in the form of electricity distribution, both wireless and wired communication, the synthesis of ammonia and new forms of power generation. The Third Industrial Revolution began in the 1950s with the development of digital systems, communication and rapid advances in computing power, which have enabled new ways of generating, processing and sharing information.