USPTO To Accelerate Examination of Green Tech Patents

by Brian Fletcher on December 7, 2009

Inventors Digest is reporting here that the USPTO is launching a pilot program (“Green Tech”) which will permit patent applications pertaining to environmental quality, energy conservation, development of renewable energy resources, and greenhouse gas emission reduction to be accorded special status and be examined on an accelerated basis. The program is designed to accelerate the development of green technology, increase America’s competitiveness in this area, promote green investment and create green jobs.

We haven’t seen anything official from the USPTO yet, but this is supposedly how the pilot program will work:

Under the Green Tech pilot program, for the first 3,000 applications related to green technologies in which a proper petition is filed, the agency will examine the applications on an accelerated basis.

The USPTO will accord special status to patent applications for inventions which materially enhance the quality of the environment by contributing to the restoration or maintenance of the basic life-sustaining natural elements. The agency also will accord special status to patent applications for inventions that materially contribute to: (1) the discovery or development of renewable energy resources; (2) the more efficient utilization and conservation of energy resources, or (3) greenhouse gas emission reduction.

To be eligible, the application must be a new non-reissue, non-provisional utility application that was filed before the publication of the Federal Register notice.  The application must be classified in one of the eligible U.S. classifications at the time of examination; contain three or fewer independent claims and 20 or fewer total claims, but not contain any multiple dependent claims; and the claims must be directed to a single invention pertaining to an eligible green technology.

The applications will be placed on an examiner’s special docket prior to the first Office action, and will have special status in any appeal to the Board of Patent Appeals and Interferences and also in the patent publication process.   The applications, however, will be placed on the examiner’s amended docket, rather than the examiner’s special docket, after the first Office action.

There is no petition fee required to make special under the Green Technology pilot program, but the petition must be filed electronically using EFS-Web before a first Office action.   An eligibility statement regarding how the invention materially enhances the quality of the environment or contributes to certain green technologies as well as a request for early publication and the publication fee must accompany the petition.

Relevant Statistics:

There are 25,000 patent applications awaiting first action that would be eligible to participate in the pilot program.

The average total pendency of applications in these specific technology areas is approximately 40 months (approximately 30 months to first action).

Based on historical data, applicants could expect that participation in the pilot program would shorten the pendency to the first action and overall pendency by as much as 12 months.

In FY 2009 alone, the USPTO received more than 12,000 applications that would be eligible to participate in the program.

This is a mostly good news story, and part of an initiative that I encouraged Director Kappos to take here in response to his first post on the new Director’s Blog at the USPTO web site.  The very good news appears to be that no Examination Support Document is required.  We’re less thrilled about the claim limitations and we hope that the program will be available to all green technology applications going forward.  We also encouraged Director Kappos to extend a similar program to patent applications directed to anti-terrorism technologies and will continue to advocate for such a program.

{ 1 comment }

Gena777 December 13, 2009 at 8:37 pm

There’s little question that “green” technology is increasingly critical to the economy and preservation of the environment, and I am glad to see the USPTO take this step. Moreover, it’s certainly encouraging news that an examination support document will not be required. However, the decision also appears to be politically motivated, especially considering the timing of this move. It’s certainly nothing new for politics and patent law to be intertwined. Still, one hopes that Kappos et al. have paid heed not only to the political points scored for this decision, but have also thoroughly considered other potential consequences (both positive and negative) of this preferential treatment. It will be interesting to see how all this unfolds.

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