A number of big name tech firms including IBM, Sony and Nokia have joined forces to work on a patent-sharing plan, dubbed Eco-Patents Commons.
The new project, which was officially launched today, has been set up to encourage companies to donate intellectual property that improves the environment.
The founders said that, to egg on that incentive, 31 patents have already been donated into the public domain, including a recyclable protective packaging material for electronic components from IBM, and mobile phones recycled into calculators and personal digital assistants from Nokia.
The commons will be overseen by the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD). It described the new project as an opportunity for companies to independently pledge intellectual property that "provide environmental benefit and do not represent an essential source of business advantage for them".
The Geneva-based WBCSD group, members of which include around 200 of the world's biggest companies, also said it wanted to build on the open source community's methods of sharing free software by getting businesses to contribute technology patents that provide environmental benefits.
It said that any company wishing to join the commons need only make one patent pledge. The WBCSD hopes over time to globally establish "a robust number of patents". ®