HP donates patents to eco-friendly scheme

Hewlett-Packard is donating several technology patents to an eco-friendly scheme run by the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD).

The scheme, called Eco-Patent Commons, has already seen other donations of patents from the likes of IBM, Nokia, and Sony, all aimed at delivering more eco-friendly technology.

“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.

The scheme will allow companies to employ the patented technology without having to pay royalties to the original patent holder, which is a source of contention that would have stopped companies using the more sustainable methods.

The patents HP is donating include a battery recycling station which allows the swapping of used batteries for new ones or store credit. This will obviously encourage consumers to recycle their batteries, which the WBCSD is all in favour of.

The second patent HP is donating is for a method that could, it claims, eliminate the need for anti-oxidant metal coatings during microchip and circuit board assembly. This would mean dumped computer chips would have a much less hazardous effect upon the environment.

HP is also handing over its patent for an energy consumption monitor that focuses on “bad welds” on assembly lines, which HP claims contributes to significant energy wastage. 

The WBCSD has had over 100 patent donations since it began the scheme in January 2008, but is open to receiving more. It said it is not looking for the financially essential “crown jewels” of a company’s patents, but rather the more eco-friendly things that have little financial viability. 

It also said that its inspiration for the scheme is the open source developments within software: “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. Sharing environmental patents can help others become more eco-efficient and operate in a more environmentally sustainable manner.”