Bosch, DuPont and Xerox Corporation have joined the Eco-Patent Commons, a first-of-its-kind business effort to help the environment by pledging environmentally-beneficial patents to the public domain.
The newly pledged patents include:
- A cutting edge, Xerox technology that significantly reduces the time and cost of removing hazardous waste from water and soil;
- A technology developed by DuPont that converts certain non-recyclable plastics into beneficial fertilizer;
- Automotive technologies from Bosch that help lower fuel consumption, reduce emissions, or convert waste heat from vehicles into useful energy;
- Technologies developed by founding member Sony that focus on the recycling of optical discs.
The Eco-Patent Commons, launched by IBM (NYSE: IBM), Nokia, Pitney Bowes and Sony in partnership with the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) in January 2008, provides a unique opportunity for global business to make a difference -- sharing innovation in support of sustainable development. The objectives of the Eco-Patent Commons are to facilitate the use of existing technologies to protect the environment, and encourage collaboration between businesses that foster new innovations.
Today's pledges more than double the number of environmentally friendly patents available to the public. They are available on a dedicated Web site hosted by the WBCSD (http://www.wbcsd.org/web/epc). Patents pledged to the Eco-Patent Commons may involve innovations directly related to environmental solutions or may be innovations in manufacturing or business processes where the solution also provides an environmental benefit, such as pollution prevention or the more efficient use of materials or energy.
Since the launch of the Eco-Patent Commons in January, many of the patent holders have been contacted directly about their patents and at least three patents have already been used by others. "We are pleased that the commons is beginning to have an impact," said Bjorn Stigson, president of the WBCSD. "We hope it will be a positive contribution to the challenge of technology diffusion around the world."
Xerox has pledged 11 patents that make it possible to cut the time it takes to remove toxic waste from soil and water from years to months. Called 2-PHASE Extraction™, the technology, has been used by Xerox to remove more than 98 percent of volatile organic solvents from shallow groundwater in contaminated sites.
The traditional way to treat sites where organic solvents have spilled involves first drilling a well to pump out the ground water and treat it, then applying a vacuum to the soil to remove and treat vapors. The 2-PHASE Extraction system uses a stronger vacuum that simultaneously removes both the soil vapors and water -- in the form of mist. With it, Xerox has been able to reduce overall remediation times by as much as 80 percent.
"Xerox has made a long-term commitment to environmentally responsible operations. The Eco-Patent Commons gives us the opportunity to share what we have learned," said Patricia Calkins, Xerox vice president of Environment, Health and Safety. "We developed the 2-PHASE technology more than 15 years ago to help us remediate sites more quickly and at less expense. We believe it will be a valuable tool for others, such as the local dry cleaners or gas stations, whom need to clean up volatile organic compounds."
DuPont has contributed four patents to the Eco-Patent Commons, one of which involves waste reduction technology that uses selected enzymes to accelerate the conversion of certain non-recyclable plastics to beneficial fertilizers. Plastics that are designed to be tough and durable for applications such as packaging, appliances, and small durable consumer goods can be more quickly and completely decomposed using this technology, potentially reducing the amount of plastic that remains as landfill solid waste.
The three other DuPont patents involve the company's Lux technology for pollution detection. When exposed to an environmental stress, such as a pollutant, the patented microorganism will produce light to indicate the presence of the pollutant. This new detection technology is useful in monitoring soil, air and water quality; toxicity screening; pharmaceutical and agrochemical design; and manufacturing and fermentation process control. This technology may benefit many enterprises in the chemical, food and beverage, cosmetics, agricultural, environmental, regulatory and health care industries.
"Sustainability through science is core to DuPont's mission and we are proud to be able to provide our technology to others through the Eco-Patent Commons," said DuPont Senior Vice President and Chief Science & Technology Officer Uma Chowdhry. "The patents we have pledged are new technologies that utilize the latest thinking in the areas of biotechnology and materials science -- technologies that can be socialized and adapted to reduce the global environmental footprint of the human population."
Most of the pledged patents from Bosch relate to automotive technology and include applications for energy and engine management in the vehicle, including the manufacture of injection systems and particulate filters. Among other uses, the patents may help lower fuel consumption, reduce emissions, or convert waste heat from vehicles into useful energy.
"The free access allows the broader use of patents previously protected for Bosch. This will benefit the environment," said Peter J. Marks, member of the Bosch board of management with responsibility for environmental protection.
In addition to patents pledged by the three newest members of the Eco-Patent Commons, founding member Sony has pledged three more patents in an effort to further contribute to environmental conservation. Optical discs are widely used as a recording media in the digital age, and these technologies enable them to be recycled by the retrieval of pigment composition and metal from the disc's reflective film. Sony continues its effort to enhance activities for environmental conservation by utilizing its wide range of technologies.