Verisae has a patent for recording and reporting carbon emissions and trading the credits – and it wants the carbon accounting software industry to know.

Whether it's the first shot in a brewing patent war for the nascent but growing industry, or a false alarm, remains to be seen.

The Minneapolis-based company announced this week that its patent, Greenhouse Gas (GHG) Emissions Tracking Patent #7440871, was approved in October.

Since then, the market for software that can help companies track and report their carbon emissions has emerged as a major focus for software giants, with SAP buying startup Clear Standards and Microsoft and CA announcing plans to enter the space (see Carbon Accounting: It's All About Appearances and Carbon Consolidation Begins With SAP's Latest Buy).

So Verisae decided "it's important to be out there with the news that we do have a patent on emission tracking," Paul Hepperla, director of energy services, said Friday.

"What do we plan to do with it? That's a harder question to answer," he added. "Do we plan to defend it? The broader answer is yes."

Hepperla said that the heart of Verisae's patent is in how it automates the collection and reporting of data from various parts of a business operations into its carbon calculation software.

Verisae's carbon accounting software is one piece of a suite of software for asset management, refrigerant tracking and compliance reporting and energy and demand response management.

Compared to Verisae's methods of collecting data from all those sources and others to derive a company's greenhouse gas emissions data, other products on the market

Those are all sources for greenhouse gas emissions data that Verisae can collect automatically, Hepperla said – something he claimed differentiates its software from what he called "fancy spreadsheets" from competitors, which require far more hands-on work to use.

Patent expert Rich Belgard noted that Verisae's patent claims "appear to be fairly broad, meaning that anyone building an enterprise tracking system for greenhouse gases and carbon emissions should be aware" of them, since challenging a patent or defending against a patent infringement lawsuit can cost millions of dollars.

But other tracking and reporting systems won't necessarily infringe on Verisae's patent, unless it matches it in all particulars, he added

"If even one of those elements were to be omitted from such a system, the resultant system would not infringe the patent," he said.

Verisae's clients include U.S. retailers Walmart, Costco, Target, as well as grocery giants Tesco in the United Kingdom and Ahold in The Netherlands, product manager Daniel Stouffer said. Of those, Ahold is now using Verisae's carbon tracking software, he said.