There is a need for investigators, legislators, and business leaders to understand the magnitude of innovation and discovery in the field of environmentally conscious technologies (ECTs). Knowledge of the “big picture” is important to providing a national and global account of actual environmental stewardship over the last twenty-five years. A recitation of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) supported Acts which have been enacted into law reveals one facet of the multifaceted dynamic of environmental consciousness. The popular discussion and debate, as well as partisan lobbying, which created the political forces leading to environmentally conscious legislation is another facet. A third facet is the corporate response to the threats and opportunities predicted by CEO’s and others through environmental scanning.
This paper examines changes in environmentally conscious inventive effort by comparing data from United States Patents issued from 1976 through 2003. Patents are useful tool for measuring technological innovation because they are publicly available records of innovative activity. Although not all inventions result in patent applications, the monopoly rights granted on the invention give the inventor a strong incentive to obtain patents on any viable product or process.
Among the results, we found a significant increase in patents relating to environmentally conscious products and processes during the period in question. Specifically, a dramatic increase in patent activity was seen for the decade of the 1990’s. Surprisingly, the patenting rate from 2000 to 2003 seems to have stabilized. Additionally public discussion of ECTs appears to have a positive impact on patent filings.