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When it comes to green tech, should companies share and share alike?

While Harry obsesses over cars this week, I'm going to delve into the more esoteric. And I'll start by asking one of those squirmy ethical questions.
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Written by Heather Clancy, Contributor on

While Harry obsesses over cars this week, I'm going to delve into the more esoteric. And I'll start by asking one of those squirmy ethical questions. Here goes: If someone invents some piece of green tech that could vital or key in halting or even reversing the damage that humankind does to the environment, should they be required to make it publicly available?

That's the kind of soul-searching that should be prompted by the creation of the Eco-Patent Commons. The idea behind the commons is born in the open source world. By making some of their ideas more publicly available, these companies hope that green-minded engineers might take these developments one step further.

IBM, which traditionally wields and yields more patents per year than other big high-tech companies including Intel, Microsoft and Hewlett-Packard, is the founding member along with the World Business Council. Here's a quickie video that explains what's behind the effort.

The kinds of patents that might be found on the commons might be the following: - A process for replacing harmful chemicals in a manufacturing process - A factory emission-reductions scheme - A components reuse project that lets someone harvest components from older electronics gadgets for reuse in others

Aside from IBM, the other initial participants in the commons are Sony, Nokia and Pitney Bowes

So, how about it: Should green tech companies be encouraged to share the foundation of their ideas? The way things are panning out right now, many high-tech concerns are wielding their green-ness as a point of differentiation for which they hope to derive more profit. How long will that practice continue?

If you're inclined, e-mail me directly at hcccollins@mac.com.

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