Environmentally sound technologies (EST) are less polluting and use all resources more sustainably. This definition leads to the concept of "green patents".
The ECO 92 event held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil (United Nations Conference on Environment and Development) had a significant impact on issues relating to environmental conservation. This led to several conferences, conventions and debates discussed worldwide. One of the programs carried out in Eco 92 was Agenda 21, which led to ESTs.

ESTs are technologies which lead to reduction and adaptation to climate changes. They are "process and product technologies" that generate low or no waste, for the prevention of pollution.

An example of an international treaty, created in 1992, is the UNFCCC, United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change. Its main objective is to stabilise greenhouse gas concentrations in the atmosphere at a level that would prevent dangerous interference with the climate system. The next convention event will be held in December 2010 in Mexico.

With the start of the discussions about so-called "green patents", the Brazilian Patent Office created the General Coordination of Institutional Machinery. This coordination is making environmental progress and even presented proposals to the Copenhagen Conference in December 2009 with the support of the G-77 (group of developing countries), which clashed with the position of the rich countries on emphasising technology transfer.

The "green patent" is a challenge for the Brazilian patents system and the procedures to be adopted have not yet been defined. It is currently only in the discussion and proposal stage.

As an example, in the metallurgical area, divided into 15 subgroups by international classification, Brazil has suggested the creation of five subgroups for "green patents". These are casting, dust metallurgy, mechanical working with metallic dust, manufacture of articles from metallic dust, manufacturing of metallic dust, manufacturing of articles from scrap or metallic particle waste.

The main advantages proposed for "green patents" are: (i) priority examination; (ii) speed in process and analysis and (iii) technology transfer for developing countries.

It should be pointed out that the concept which the Brazilian Patent Office has for the privileged treatment of "green patents" for them to obtain faster analysis has also been adopted by countries such as Australia, China, United States, Korea and the United Kingdom.

Although there is not yet a conclusion with regard to this issue, decisions and definitions are expected to be made so that the result is positive and that we may gain the advantages of this system in a short period of time, bearing in mind the major global concerns relating to the environment.