Monthly Archive: April 2020

World IP Day 2020: Environmental Opportunities from the Covid-19 Pandemic

World Intellectual Property Day is celebrated on the 26th April each year.  It aims to encourage awareness, learning and understanding of how intellectual property rights impact daily life, as well as the role they play in creativity, innovation and the development of societies around the world.

The theme for 2020 is “Innovate for a Green Future”.



At the time of writing, the entire world is living through a time, the impact of which has not been seen for many decades.  The current Covid-19 pandemic has changed the lives of everyone on Earth, in ways that affect us all socially, economically, culturally, educationally and environmentally.


Potential Positive Environmental Impacts of Lockdown

Lockdowns of varying restrictions and periods have been and are in force around the world, with the movements and activities of people and businesses severely impacted.  The measurable effect on the environment has been noticeable and rapid.

Data from the European and US Space Agencies have shown significant declines in nitrogen dioxide (NO2) levels in cities and other industrialised areas around the world.  NO2 is a major environmental pollutant and respiratory irritant, in addition to the role it plays in greenhouse gas (ozone) formation.

In a more localised example, Venice (Italy) has seen a reduction in visitor numbers and dramatic decrease in traffic on the city’s canals.  This has led to less pollution and the opportunity for the sediment in the water to settle, resulting in much clearer waterways.

We should not, however, be drawn into a false sense of security that the damage to the environment caused by human activity over the years has been rectified in just a few weeks or months.  Rather, what we are seeing is an indication of what might be achieved if the world chooses to recover from the current pandemic by following a new path in terms of how we interact with our planet.


An Opportunity for a New Direction

We have the opportunity to recover and rebuild by taking a new direction with a stronger focus on a suite of green initiatives, including:

  • Preparing and Adapting for the Impacts of Climate Change: climate change is happening and it is likely that anything we do will only mitigate its effects. It is therefore important that we invest in technology, infrastructure and behaviours that prepare us for the challenges that are likely come, such as: rising sea levels; extreme weather; food and water security; migration of humans, animals and plants; and an increased risk of future disease epidemics
  • Reducing Greenhouse Gas Emissions: investing further in energy generation from renewable and other low-carbon sources; pursuing electrification of transport systems, which preferentially use the electricity from renewable sources; and modifying our agricultural practices
  • Reducing Wastage: changing our production and consumption habits, as well as investing in smart infrastructure to optimise our use of available and finite resources
  • Restoring the Health, Diversity and Vitality of Our Ecosystems and Natural Processes: proactively supporting the planet, it’s climate, and our food supply, through more sympathetic management of protected areas, reducing deforestation and the use of deforestation-dependent products, as well as restoring the natural environment


The Role of Intellectual Property in Supporting Green Innovation

Patents and other IP rights play a key role in encouraging investment and innovation.  By ensuring endeavours are sustainable and the knowledge generated is shared for future use and development, intellectual property provides stakeholders (individuals, companies, external collaborators and others) with a level of security to develop, grow and scale their inventions and innovations.

As technologies continue to advance and costs fall, financing of renewable energy technologies has increased around the world in recent years.  As of 2019, financing for solar, wind, hydro and geothermal power greatly exceeded new financing for coal and gas-derived power, and this trend is expected to continue.

Analysis of patent filings, however, has suggested a slow-down, and in some cases a decline, in the last few years in patenting activity around alternative energy production and conservation technologies, as well as green transportation.

It will be important to continue to support green innovation as the world recovers from the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic.

The World Intellectual Property Organisation already manages WIPO GREEN.  Launched in 2013, it is an online platform for green technology and IP exchange.  The platform connects and enables green innovation by bringing together technology owners and developers with those looking to commercialise, license and distribute green technologies.

Other economic stimuli might include programmes that favour or prioritise investments in clean energy.  Business assistance packages or bailouts could be conditional upon emissions cuts or other measures focussed on greener technologies, the mitigation of climate change and the future-proofing of our place in the world.

Alistair Curson



BBC. (2020, March 18). ” Coronavirus: Venice canals clearer after lockdown”. Retrieved April 21, 2020, from:

Blumberg S (ed). (2020, April 10). “NASA Satellite Data Show 30 Percent Drop In Air Pollution Over Northeast U.S.”. Retrieved April 24, 2020, from:

European Space Agency. (2020, March 19). “COVID-19: nitrogen dioxide over China”. Retrieved April 24, 2020, from:

Fushimi K, Bergquist K, Rivera León L, Xu N, Wunsch-Vincent S. (2018). “Measuring innovation in energy technologies: green patents as captured by WIPO’s IPC green inventory”. Retrieved April 23, 2020, from:

Kaplan J, Frias L, Mcfall-Johnsen M. (2020, March 14). “A third of the global population is on coronavirus lockdown — here’s our constantly updated list of countries and restrictions”. Retrieved April 21, 2020, from:

Monks P. (2020, April 20). “Here’s how lockdowns have improved air quality around the world”. Retrieved April 21, 2020, from:

Orendain J. (2019, November 22). “The Role of IP Rights in Green Technologies Innovation”. Retrieved April 23, 2020, from:

Roston E, Rojanasakul M, Murray P, Harris B, Pogkas D, Tartar A. (2019). “Bloomberg Green: Renewable Investment”. Retrieved April 23, 2020, from:

Stephenson J. (2020, April 20). ” Covid-19 has nothing on what’s coming”. Retrieved April 21, 2020, from:

UN News. (2020, April 05). ” First Person: COVID-19 is not a silver lining for the climate, says UN Environment chief”. Retrieved April 21, 2020, from:

United States Environmental Protection Agency. “Nitrogen Dioxide (NO2) Pollution: Effects of NO2“. Retrieved April 22, 2020, from:

University of Hawaii. “Climate and Water Resource Case Study: Chapter 2 – C3. Greenhouse Gases: Nitrous Oxide (N2O)”. Retrieved April 22, 2020, from:

Wikipedia. (2020, April 21). “2019–20 coronavirus pandemic”. Retrieved April 21, 2020, from:

Wikipedia. (2020, April 10). “Greenhouse gas”. Retrieved April 22, 2020, from:

Wikipedia. (2020, April 20). “Spanish flu”. Retrieved April 21, 2020, from:

Wikipedia. (2020, April 19). “World Intellectual Property Day”. Retrieved April 21, 2020, from:

Wilkinson D, Téllez Chávez L. (2020, April 16). ” How Covid-19 Could Impact the Climate Crisis”. Retrieved April 21, 2020, from:

World Intellectual Property Organisation. “WIPO GREEN – The Marketplace for Sustainable Technology”. Retrieved April 23, 2020, from:

World Intellectual Property Organisation. “World Intellectual Property Day – April 26, 2020: Innovate for a Green Future”. Retrieved April 21, 2020, from:

World Intellectual Property Organisation. “World Intellectual Property Day 2020 – Innovation for a Green Future”. Retrieved April 21, 2020, from:

Yvonne. (2020, April 03). ” The Unexpected Environmental Consequences of COVID-19″. Retrieved April 21, 2020, from:

Expanding the Scope of Free Global Intellectual Property Databases

The capabilities and scope of freely available global intellectual property (IP) databases are constantly growing.  Recently, TMview and PubChem announced updates that widen their capability for IP search and analysis from various global jurisdictions.


IP Australia Joins TMview

IP Australia has joined TMview, a free global online tool from the European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO) that facilitates word and image trade mark searching from the 74 participating offices around the world.  Over 1.6 million Australian trade marks have now been added to the database.

A range of IP right, bibliographic and legal status information can be searched and investigated, including the words and images constituting the mark, the goods and services protected, ownership, legal status and registration date.  Access to details at the office of origin is also provide.

This news follows closely the announcement that the EUIPO had launched improved versions of both its TMview (trade marks) and DesignView (designs) databases.  The improvements include a wider set of search criteria and abilities to fine tune queries, a function to compare trade marks and designs side-by-side, and the capability to export to PDF, Excel and Word formats.


PubChem Chemical Search Enhanced with WIPO Chemical Structures

PubChem is the National Institutes of Health (NIH) open chemistry database that provides the world’s largest collection of freely accessible chemical information.

The World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) has an extensive searchable database of IP-related chemical data, built through a collaboration with German cheminfomatics software company InfoChem.  This dataset is made available through WIPO’s patent database PATENTSCOPE.

WIPO has recently contributed over 16 million chemical structures to PubChem.  These can be searched within PubChem by name, molecular formula, structure, and other identifiers.  Information including chemical and physical properties, biological activities, safety and toxicity information, patents, and literature citations can be retrieved.  PubChem users also have access to relevant patent information via direct links back to PATENTSCOPE.



These developments expand and advance the provision of freely available intellectual property information.

For those with an interest in the Australian market, who wish to understand the IP landscape there, the provision of Australian trade marks on TMview improves their abilities to conduct such analyses.

Similarly, for anyone working in the chemistry and related fields, WIPO’s contribution to PubChem is a welcome enhancement for accessing comprehensive patent information in such disciplines.

Alistair Curson



European Union Intellectual Property Network. (2020, April 02). “News: The EUIPO has launched improved versions of TMview and DesignView”. Retrieved April 09, 2020, from:

European Union Intellectual Property Network. (2020, April 06). “News: Australia joins TMview”. Retrieved April 09, 2020, from:

European Union Intellectual Property Network. “TMview”. Retrieved April 09, 2020, from:

European Union Intellectual Property Network. “Tools”. Retrieved April 09, 2020, from:

InfoChem. (2019). “InfoChem”. Retrieved April 14, 2020, from:

IP Australia. (2020, April 07). “IP Australia joins global trade marks database TMview”. Retrieved April 09 , 2020, from:

PubChem. “Explore Chemistry”. Retrieved April 14, 2020, from:

PubChem Blog. (2020, March 25). “Integration of WIPO’s PATENTSCOPE data with PubChem”. Retrieved April 14, 2020, from:

World Intellectual Property Organisation. (2020, March 25). “WIPO Contributes Millions of Searchable Chemical Formulas to Database at U.S. National Institutes of Health”. Retrieved April 09, 2020, from:

World Intellectual Property Organisation. “Patentscope: Chemical Compounds Search”. Retrieved April 14, 2020, from:

Learning Lessons from Cartographers to Protect Intellectual Property

Most businesses will have copyright-protected works as a part of their overall IP portfolio.  For some, these works may be the core of their business, such as literary works or other documents, music, art or software code.  How can these businesses effectively protect themselves against copyright theft and infringement?


Copyright Infringement and Independent Creation

For a work to attract copyright protection, it must be original.  This does not mean that the work is new.  Rather that it originated from the author who displayed reasonable independent labour, skill and judgment to create the work.  In other words, the author didn’t copy the work from another source.

It is possible for two authors to independently create very similar works.  Provided they did not copy from either each other (or from someone else) then there would be no infringement of copyright.

For copyright infringement to occur, the following need to be satisfied:

  1. There needs to be a valid copyright in a work and ownership of it
  2. The alleged infringing work needs to show a level of objective and striking similarity to the copyright-protected work – a clear resemblance
  3. There needs to be a causal connection between the two works – facts that suggest that copying of the copyright-protected work is likely to have occurred in the creation of the infringing work
  4. There should be copying of a “substantial part” of the copyright-protected work – this is based on quality rather than quantity, as well as the relative importance of the copied elements to the copyright-protected work

Any evidence, or that lack thereof, to support an independent pathway of creation will be important in deciding a case of copyright infringement.  This is where copyright traps can be particularly useful, especially for establishing a causal connection between works.


Copyright Traps and Paper Towns

Copyright traps are an established technique to address infringement and plagiarism across a range of works.

The practice involves including a small or trivial item of false information within a work, or details and design features that are unique to the work, and are thus highly unlikely to originate at random in a separate work from a third party.  The latter are often used to ensure the integrity of the original work and the information it contains are not compromised nor misleading to the end user.  In both scenarios, these traps provide a strong causal link to demonstrate that copying had occurred.

Within the discipline of cartography (map making), the use of “paper towns” is the inclusion of a non-existent town, or other unique details such as road widths, on a map.

A famous example is the fictitious town of Agloe in New York State, USA.  Included in maps drawn by the General Drafting Company in 1937 as a copyright trap, an actual hamlet with a general store, gas station and two houses, was eventually built on the site (although it has now long since been abandoned).

In another case from the early 2000s, the UK’s Ordnance Survey (national location and mapping agency) won a £20m compensation from the UK’s Automobile Association (the AA) for the unauthorised copying of its maps in the publication of various atlases, town plans and maps by the AA.  In the conclusion to a long running dispute, the Ordnance Survey were able to demonstrate evidence of copying based upon specific style features and design elements included in their maps, which also subsequently appeared in the AA maps.


Applications to Other IP Rights

The principle behind copyright traps and “paper towns” can be applied to a number of IP rights to guard against theft and infringement, and to provide important evidence to resolve disputes.

The technique has applications in documentation relating to trade secrets to detect the leakage of the information to third parties.  Within software development (a field of particular relevance to the tech industry here in New Zealand), the practice of embedding a unique identifier within a piece of code is known as “watermarking”.

Such traps can be a standard inclusion within documentation, software code and other works.  Alternatively, they be applied on an ad hoc basis to investigate suspected ongoing theft or infringement by introducing a change or false information and seeing if it is propagated by the alleged infringer.

Proving IP theft and infringement can be difficult, time-consuming and expensive.  Provided the use of “paper towns” and copyright traps do not lessen the quality or integrity of the product or service you provide, then this is a strategy to consider in order to protect your intellectual property.  They can provide you with valuable evidence and put you in a strong position to stop the theft of your IP and the subsequent damage to your business.

Alistair Curson



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Fasthoff Law Firm. (2016, November 27). “Anatomy of a Copyright Infringement Case: Defenses to Allegations of Copyright Infringement”. Retrieved April 01, 2020, from:

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O’Connell D. (2020, March 27). “Trade Secrets & Paper Towns”. Retrieved April 01, 2020, from:

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