Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Copyright??? versus Environment

Two weeks ago I was intrigued by the title of an article on PlanetArk "Copyright Fear Hampers West's Climate Work in China". In fact it was a bad piece of journalism.

The article is about how Western companies do not want to invest in clean energy technology in China because their fears about Chinese "copying" Western technology. But that is not copyright, that is about patents and trademarks (which themselves are different). Copyright refers to copying a work of art, such as writing, music, or film, not about technology. Read this article to understand where the confusion is.

The article title should be "How profits interferes with social responsibility". Compare the following quotes from the PlanetArk article:

In a major climate change review last year former World Bank chief economist Nicholas Stern put the cost of low-carbon investment in developing countries at US$20 billion-30 billion per year, and urged the private sector to help through technology transfer.

But Western investors, gathered at a clean energy technology conference in Frankfurt, said it is difficult even to sell such products in China because local companies may copy them and violate intellectual property (IP) rights.

So, in other words while an eminent economist says we should invest in technology transfer, investors say no because they cannot make enough profit.

The following paragraph is a laugh; it is quoting a partner in a private equity company.
"They have these 'copy shops' with Ralph Lauren shirts and Rolex
watches, whatever you like, but on the other hand say they don't like
breach of copyright," Lederle said. "We're still a bit cautious."

First, Lederle is not talking about copyright, he is talking about trademarks. Secondly, in clean technology we are not talking about Rolex, Ralph Lauren, or the like. In fact, the issue related to clean technology is patents, not trademarks or copyright.

What is being talked about here is production of solar cells, etc. in China. In other words, the technology we are concerned with here are the production methods, not the final product.

If we want to get into a debate about patents, trademarks, and copyright versus the environment, fine. But let us make sure we talking about the correct issues.

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