Intellectual Property Landscape of Material Sustainability Standards

by Jorge L. Contreras and Charles R. MacManis
14 Colum. Sci. & Tech. L. Rev. 485 (Published July 31, 2013)

Abstract

One of the most significant factors affecting building sustainability is the sustainability of the materials used in construction. This recognition has led to the emergence of a broad range of advanced new building materials, many of which are claimed to address issues of sustainability either in their composition or the processes by which they are manufactured. The emergence of these new materials, as well as heightened public sensitivity to sustainability issues, have given rise to a burgeoning field of standards and certifications that purport to assess, measure and rate the sustainability of building materials ranging from structural elements such as masonry, drywall and flooring to interior design features such as carpeting, paint and furniture. As part of an ongoing research program to study and evaluate such materials sustainability standards (MSS), we conducted an in-depth study of nine selected MSS with to the goal of identifying intellectual property issues associated with each. These nine MSS and a summary of our observations concerning the intellectual property issues implicated by each is contained in this article. We found that the practices of manufacturers and standards development and certifying organizations in this field typically address copyright, trademark, and trade secret issues explicitly, but there is also a risk that patent issues will arise in the future.

About the Authors:

Jorge L. Contreras is an Associate Professor of Law at American University Washington College of Law and Charles R. McManis is the Thomas and Karole Green Professor of Law at Washington University in St. Louis.

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