© Hollandse Hoogte

Green patents

The share of green technology patents in total Dutch patent applications to the European Patent Office (EPO) rose from 4.9 percent in 2000 to 11.1 percent in 2012. It fell back to 7.1 percent in 2013.

Green patents are patents for technology concerning waste, wind power, geothermal energy, solar energy, tidal energy and biomass, submitted by Dutch applicants to the European Patent Office. The selection of patents in these technology areas is based on the international patent classification code.

The issue

Technological development and innovation are important drivers for economic growth and productivity. Innovation focusing on cleaning current technologies and developing new green technologies are essential for green economic growth. As patent data give an indication of the inventiveness of a country, green patents are indicative of innovators being able to anticipate new economic opportunities involved in greening economic growth.


While the total number of Dutch patent application to the EPO increased between 2000 and 2013, the number of green patents increased much faster. This can be interpreted as an increase in inventiveness in the area of cleaner technologies in the Netherlands, but also as a knowledge intensification of the economy and associated competences of green technologies. In 2013, around 32 percent of green patent applications were related to the environment, 27 percent to climate change technology for buildings (energy efficiency), and 22 percent to climate change technology related to energy generation, transmission or distribution. The recent fall in green patent applications may be related to the fact that many new green technologies developed in the recent past have become ‘mature’ and are now being implemented.

International comparison

The share of green patent applications by Dutch parties is below the international average. The Netherlands ranked 28th out of 34 countries in 2013, one position lower than in 2000. The Dutch ranking fluctuated between 30th and 22nd through those years. This suggests that the Netherlands has probably built up less intellectual property in green technology than most other OECD countries over the past decades.