Guest column

Expert: Texas leaders need to expedite long-term energy solutions

"Texas is an energy leader and no one wants to see that change." Photo via Getty Images

Soaring temperatures have arrived, and while Texans should be enjoying the return to normalcy, instead they're facing another energy crisis.

Many saw February's winter storm and severe power outages as a once-in-a-century problem, but these unusual events are becoming all too commonplace, despite the governor's directive to improve grid reliability. Last month, Texans were again being asked to conserve energy while lawmakers considered a slew of new regulations, some of which would cripple investments in renewable energy.

For three months following the storm, the Texas legislature debated how to prevent another energy crisis. We applaud our elected officials for resisting political pressure to wrongly blame and punish renewable energy, and we want to encourage them to continue with this forward-thinking strategy.

Texas is an energy leader and no one wants to see that change. We urge our representatives in Austin to take a comprehensive view of what went wrong during the winter storm and ensure that any new rules and regulations work in support of, and not against, the energy market as a whole.

Texas needs a long term, comprehensive plan – not just for preventing blackouts, but for a more sustainable state.

Hot weather in Texas is a given, but we're anticipating temperatures will continue to rise. A climatologist at Texas A&M University recently predicted that the state will see the number of 100-degree days double by 2036. Rather than take a step back, we need to move forward and prioritize renewable energy as well as other investments in sustainability to future-proof our state and our planet.

Prioritizing green energy will have a ripple effect on Texas' economy. As the country's leader in wind-generated electricity, Texas has already reaped the benefit of creating thousands of new jobs for the state. In 2019, it was reported that Texas had over 230,000 clean energy jobs. If our state leaders are committed to job creation, we want to see how they're supporting clean energy, as well as continuing to work on maintaining the grid in an effective, efficient way.

The energy market is complex and dynamic, but it’s a key player in our road to a sustainable future. 

Continuing to invest in renewable energy is one simple step our lawmakers can make to ensure our energy market is addressing the climate crisis — and that Texans aren't dependent on generators and gas-fired power plants which let the state down during Winter Storm Uri. This should be a priority. In a recent survey of 1,000 adults by OnePoll in May 2021 commissioned by Bulb, 74 percent of respondents stated Texas should continue to develop and invest in renewable energy and over half of respondents expressed that investing in more green, clean renewable energy is the most important environmental issue that needs to be addressed.

As we come out of the pandemic, we have a chance to do better, together.

Texas has had over $60 billion in renewable energy investment to provide low-cost electricity generation. And with the growing technology sector across the state, there'll be more opportunities for renewables in the future. Continuing to promote policies that pushed Texas to its leadership position will unleash even more investments and innovation, which is good for Texas, good for Texans and good for the planet.

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Vinnie Campo is the general manager for Bulb U.S., a new type of energy company that aims to make energy simpler, cheaper, and greener by providing renewable electricity to its members from Texas wind and solar. He is based in Texas.

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Building Houston

 
 

A thorough IP audit separates the wheat from the chaff. Image via Getty Images

Every company with a business based in whole or in part on important intellectual property should protect that property with regularly scheduled intellectual property “audits.” Failing to do so may not only endanger valuable, company-owned patents and trademarks, but also make the business less profitable than it could be.

An IP audit is especially critical when a business is being sold, when a company is planning to buy another business, when a patent is being challenged by a competitor, when a company is looking for new financing or going public, and when there is a change in top management or employees in critical positions have left. A regularly scheduled IP audit can prevent panic, confusion and unwelcome surprises when these major events occur, because management will already have a good working knowledge of the status of all intellectual property.

To begin with, a thorough audit separates the wheat from the chaff. Which patents are central to the company’s business and must be carefully maintained in force? Are there other patents that are no longer important or have been superseded by newer developments and can safely be ignored and allowed to lapse?

Patents should be filed wherever the company’s products are sold and fees on all important patents must be carefully kept up to date. Fees to maintain international patents are often especially expensive but should be updated when necessary, nonetheless. Sometimes, when a company’s trademarks are reviewed, management learns that they have never been federally registered.

Auditors also may find that existing patents are no longer adequate to protect the products that are actually being sold. The products may have “moved on” through further development or application to new uses, but the relevant patents have not. Those patents should be updated immediately with new filings. It’s also critical to determine whether the products made and sold by the company could possibly infringe patents held by competitors—or whether the reverse is true, that other companies’ products are infringing the patents held by the company being audited.

A careful examination of intellectual property can also result in positive developments: auditors may discover that some patents are more valuable than anyone knew and can be licensed to produce another revenue stream for the company—or licensing can be expanded beyond the present level.

Beyond the focus on patents and trademarks, an IP audit should entail a close examination of all contracts and agreements relating to intellectual property. Pinning down exactly who owns the property is just as important as keeping patents up to date. This entails delving into development agreements, nondisclosure agreements, employment agreements, work-for-hire and sales contracts, to make sure ownership of a company’s intellectual property has not been ceded to, or shared with, a third party.

Software is particularly problematic when it comes to inadvertent infringement of the rights of others. What software is being used internally? Where did it come from and what are the limitations on its use? IT professionals don’t always realize that even open-source code requires a license.

This entire process also needs to be applied to analyzing the intellectual property of a prospective acquisition. Investigators may discover that patents belonging to the acquisition are not all appropriate for the acquiring company’s products, fees are not up to date or there are issues with IP ownership or validity. All of these factors may result in substantial savings on the purchase—or a decision not to purchase at all.

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Puja Detjen is an intellectual property attorney and partner in the Houston office of Patterson + Sheridan.

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