U.S. group urges strong patent rights in climate deal

The United States could lose 1 million green jobs by 2020 if it gives into demands by poor countries to loosen patent protections on climate-friendly technologies, a U.S. business leader said on Wednesday.

Tom Donohue, president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, said U.S. manufacturers would not invest in “alternative fuels and energy-saving devices and emission-reducing technologies if somebody is going to rip it off.”

He spoke as countries struggled to work out a new treaty on reducing the greenhouse gas emissions blamed for global warming to be considered at a meeting in Copenhagen in December.

Some developing countries, worried they will have to pay a high price for new emission-cutting technologies, want the pact to allow them to issue ‘compulsory licenses.’

That would allow a government to force a patent holder to license the use of a product or technology deemed critical to meeting the country’s greenhouse gas reduction goals.

Donohue said in a speech to the Chamber: “We have to strenuously oppose those … governments that think weakening of IP (intellectual property) rights via compulsory licensing is the most effective way for developing countries to get the technologies they need.”

“Put it another way we understand a little bit better in this country: They want to steal it,” he said.

A report prepared for the U.S. Chamber’s Global Intellectual Property Center estimated that “compulsory licensing of green technology could cost a million jobs by 2020 and lots more after that,” Donohue said.

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