Should Green Tech be Open Source?

Obama is hoping for some big climate handshakes in separate talks with China and India next month–including the announcement of India’s first cap-and-trade scheme. While the big talking point will be setting CO2 limits at levels developing countries can swallow, India’s raised an interesting side issue. They want a global fund to buy out the patents for green technologies and distribute them for free. This is the same tack India’s taken with HIV/AIDS drugs, which has made the country a global leader in low cost accessible treatment for the poor.

On one hand, the argument goes: solar panels are lifesaving technologies just like Retrovir, so shouldn’t they be spread as widely as possible? 

On the other hand, will companies like GE Energy Financial Services , which announced participation yesterday in a $23 million round of US funding in SolarEdge, an Israeli company that boosts solar power system output by 25 percent, still want to invest in technologies that can be easily copied on the cheap? Will entrepreneurs be as eager to work on greentech startup ideas? 

What do you think: is intellectual property protection important for the development of new green technology, or is the priority to promote diffusion and adoption of technologies at full speed ahead?