World IP Day: Could IP help fuel the renewable energy transition in Scotland and beyond?

United Kingdom

The need to facilitate the transition to renewable energy and pressure to meet sustainable development goals continues to grow. As such, World IP Day seems an apt time to consider the vital role IP is playing in harnessing Scotland’s wealth of natural energy resources, by encouraging and protecting innovation.


It is clear that the transition to renewable energy will rely heavily on new technology and innovation. This can be protected by a mixture of registered and unregistered IP such as patents, trade secrets, confidential information and copyright. Ensuring relevant IP protection is in place helps to safeguard inventors and provides rewards for their endeavours. It also facilitates the proper commercialisation of technology.   

Patents - Encouraging Investment

In the renewable energy sector, patents can cover anything from wind energy technologies, such as blade aerodynamics, to bioenergy inventions, like waste-to-energy processes. Recent data published by the European Union Intellectual Property Office suggests that patent filings in categories which include renewable energy increased by 12.2% during 2023.  

Patents provide patentees (i.e., owners) with exclusive rights to prevent others from using their inventions without permission for a period of twenty years (in the UK).

As renewable energy becomes increasingly fundamental to the future, investment opportunities in the sector also continue to grow. Patents can help encourage investment, creating increased returns by way of commercialisation. There is no doubt that the patent landscape in this area is becoming increasingly crowded and finding “white space” amongst existing technology is proving more and more difficult. That said, successful patents can not only generate income through licensing (which in turn can be reinvested into further research and development), but they also promote widespread adoption of technologies across the sector more generally.  

Trade Secrets and Confidential Information - Facilitating Collaboration

While protecting inventions from competitors is important, collaboration with other experts in the field of renewable energy is also necessary to facilitate innovation. Collaboration often requires sharing valuable technology and know-how with other stakeholders, which involves risk. Putting confidential information and trade secrets protections in place can help provide comfort, and further encourages the sharing of ideas.

Trade secret/confidential information protections can help to protect manufacturing methods as well as guidance on use, design documents and software. Well-structured agreements between stakeholders with clear provisions on who is allowed to use what, and for what purpose, can facilitate the sharing of information in a controlled manner, which ultimately aids collaboration.

Copyright – Protection Which Fosters Education

While also useful in respect of the aforementioned points, copyright protections can offer broader opportunities to raise public knowledge on accessing affordable and clean energy. Copyright arises automatically to protect works from unauthorised use by anyone other than the owner, offering an additional layer of protection. However, copyright legislation contains carve outs allowing copyright protected works to be used for non-commercial research and teaching. This means educational resources like documentaries or interactive learning materials can be produced and shared with academics, schools and universities. Higher education facilities can then use relevant technical information, which helps to facilitate cutting edge research and may create the next generation of experts.

The monetisation of such resources can also allow reinvestment and the continuous development and sharing of up-to-date material. Such sharing of information is crucial in developing the public’s knowledge, keeping them informed about the impact their choices make on the world around them.

Enforcement – a cost effective solution on our door step

As Scottish IP lawyers, we advise daily on the careful management and protection of IP rights in Scotland – both in the renewable energy sector and beyond. 

We are also on hand when things go wrong and IP rights require to be enforced. The Scottish Courts offer a rights-holder friendly forum which allows for the quick, cost-effective resolution of IP disputes. Ultimately, conducting IP litigation in Scotland can save both time and money in comparison to other jurisdictions, a topic we have covered in more detail previously. 1


Scotland is home to some of the world’s richest natural energy resources. On World IP Day, it seems fitting to pay tribute to the role Scotland, and IP created in Scotland, plays and will continue to play in the global journey towards a greener future. 

1 World IP Day: benefits of enforcing IP rights in Scotland (