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May 1, 2013

Winds of Change: Intellectual Property and Wind Power – Why the Brazilian Market Can Become Attractive

INTRODUCTION

Global energy demand continues to increase, with major developing countries acting as the main driving force behind such rise. However, the world energy balance is still highly dependent on the finite source of fossil fuels, which is considered to be the major responsible for atmosphere pollution in big cities. Furthermore, the long term consequences of the use of these non-renewable fuel sources are still unknown. Global warming, for example, is pointed out to be one of its most undesirable effects.

In this scenario, the need to diversify the energy matrix using more renewable energy sources has become urgent. One of the most triumphant clean energy sources that has been developed in the last years is wind power. The installed wind power capacity is increasing significantly worldwide as well as its importance to the energy matrix of several countries.

Such growth takes place due to a number of advantages of the wind power when compared to other renewable energy sources, which include small scale energy production (very convenient for isolated communities), high efficiency in energy conversion, extremely low environmental impact, easy and infrequent maintenance, among others.

WIND POWER IN BRAZIL

Brazil is now emerging as one the most important economies in the world. As Brazil’s economic growth continues, and electricity demand increases by 6 GW annually, there is a growing need for further investment in renewables. Although the Brazilian energy matrix is mainly dominated by hydropower, which is a renewable energy, its environmental impacts have shown that more friendly energy sources must be developed, like wind power.

According to some Brazilian studies , the national wind power potential is estimated at more than 350GW, which corresponds to approximately three times the current installed power capacity of the entire country .

The installed wind power capacity in Brazil has substantially increased in the last decade, growing from 22 MW in 2002 to 2,508 MW in 2012. In the last two years, this capacity has nearly tripled with huge investments in the area. In addition, the prospects for the Brazilian wind market still for 2013 look promising: Brazil is likely to reach the 5 GW milestone and to move from the current 16th position to become the 10th biggest wind power market in the world.

This growth scenario comes necessarily with large investments in innovation not only by the Brazilian government but also by the private sphere. For instance, it was recently announced the creation of the “Brazilian Network for Wind Energy Innovation’’, an innovation and research center for exchanging knowledge and best practice. The main idea is to provide an online platform to enhance collaboration between wind developers, companies, universities and research institutes.

PATENTS AS DEVELOPMENT INDICATORS

The number of wind power related international applications (International Patent Classification – IPC F03D) has notably increased in the last years, rising from 144 PCT publications in 2005 to 836 in 2011 . The ratio of such documents in comparison with the total number of published PCT applications has increased in the same period from 0.12% to 0.51%. It indicates that wind power is not only expanding in absolute numbers but also becoming more relevant amongst the different technological fields worldwide.

Brazil, on the other hand, seems not to follow the same path. Although the installed wind power capacity has notably increased year after year as set forth above, the number of patent applications filed annually at the Brazilian Patent Office, in the same International Class F03D, merely oscillated between 21 and 58 in the 2005-2011 period.

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