Green growth and sustainable development

Green patents


Far-reaching innovation is needed to address climate change and other environmental challenges, and to accelerate the transition to green growth.

The OECD Green Growth Indicators contain data on environmental innovation, alongside others on economic opportunities and policy responses. To measure the output of environmental innovation, the OECD published a new set of green patent indicators in March 2015. This set refines the patent indicators used until that date.



Patent data is useful to measure the results of innovation policies: how many patents are actually registered ? By whom ? How much do researchers collaborate across countries ? How well are technologies disseminated and legally protected on foreign markets ?  

The new patent data statistics are constructed with data extracted from the world-wide patent database PATSTAT, produced by the European Patent Office, and using algorithms developed by the OECD. To find patents in environment-related technologies, detailed search strategies have been developed drawing on more than 200,000 classification symbols. The search strategies encompass a broad spectrum of technologies related to environmental pollution, water scarcity, climate change mitigation. 

For more details on the methodology and policy relevance of green patents statistics:

1. technology development 

Did you know that the fastest-growing technologies are wind energy and electric vehicles ?
Waste management and rail transport technologies are growing more slowly, indicating a certain degree of maturity. 

The technology development indicator is a count of priority patent applications, broken down by technological field, invention year, inventor country and international patent family size. 

This indicator monitors the impressive growth of environmental innovation in the past 20 years. Some fields of technology have just followed the general progress of innovation in general. Some others, such as many climate change mitigation or water-related adaptation technologies, are developing much faster. The database allows comparisons by technological sector over time. It also allows international comparisons, to identify the best performers in each technology. 


What is a priority patent application ?

To calculate the indicator, data from multiple patent offices are pooled together. To ensure that each invention is counted only once, only the first application worldwide is counted: the "priority application". This first application gives priority to the inventor over competing applications for a year in other jurisdictions, in case the inventor applies for patent in several countries.

What is a patent family ? 

A patent family is the set of all patents in different countries that protect the same invention.


Did you know that emerging economies tend to collaborate more on climate change technologies than on other sectors? 
In addition to linguistic and geographic proximity, economic factors and government policies play a role. 
Technology agreements may help foster such collaboration between countries while more binding agreements are still being negotiated



3. Technology diffusion

Did you knowthat China is the jurisdiction where most inventors seek to patent their inventions? 

This indicator is a count of inventions for which patent protection has been sought in a given jurisdiction, by technological field, application authority (national or regional) and application year. It is a count of registered patent applications (which does not mean that patents have been granted later on).

Technology diffusion gives information on the applicants' market expectations: as patenting is costly, they will only file a patent application if they think there is a potential market for the invention in a given country. 



 further reading

These papers, and others, are available on the OECD iLibrary

Energy and Climate Policy: Bending the Technological Trajectory (2012)


Invention and Transfer of Environmental Technologies (2011)

Environmental Policy, Technological Innovation and Patents (2008)