Businesses in some of the highest energy-con¬suming and biggest carbon-emitting industries are behind many of these innovations. In the auto industry, Rolls-Royce, for instance, filed 425 patent applications in 2008, a record number for the company, which invested £885 million in re¬search and development that year, "a significant proportion" of which was aimed at reducing the environmental impact of its products. The global aviation industry, meanwhile, has agreed to cut its net carbon emissions to half of 2005 levels by 2050. The airline industry, if left unchecked, is forecast to account for up to 20 percent of all C02 emissions by 2050.

One of the major aircraft producers, Airbus, is de¬veloping new technologies to help bring this about, and protects its IP through patents. More than 380 patents have been filed in relation to technology developed for its double-decker A380 jet. "Significant breakthrough innovations have been achieved in aerodynamics, cabin de¬sign, engine integration, flight controls, aircraft systems, manufacturing techniques and the ex¬tensive use of advanced lightweight composite materials," the company says.

"These intellectual property rights secure Airbus' innovations and form a solid basis for maintaining Airbus' lead in new technological developments." One of the patents relates to a new joining process for mak¬ing a carbon fiber composite wing-box for com¬mercial aircraft. About a quarter of the A380 is made from composites, leading to a weight sav¬ing over traditional construction of 15 metric tons that significantly reduces fuel consumption.

Dan Puscasu
European patent and trademark attorney, lawyer.