USPTO Expands Green Technology Acceleration Pilot Program

In yet another attempt to expedite important patent applications through the examination process the United States Patent and Trademark Office announced earlier today that it is revising its Green Technology Pilot Program.  The revision in the program will allow more categories of technology to be eligible for expedited processing under the USPTO green initiative, which allows for the expediting of patent applications through the examination process. Eligibility for the pilot program, which was designed to promote the development of green technologies, had previously been limited to applications within a select number of classifications, with only about one-third of applications for special status being granted.

While I am once again impressed with the effort of the Kappos Administration at the USPTO to do whatever they can to expedite the patent process, I continue to be hopeful that there will be more assistance for independent inventors and start-ups.  Of course, this acceleration program can to some extent be viewed as one important step to offer acceleration to those other than corporate giants, so as part of an overall solution I think it is a great idea.  While acceleration based on co-existing international filings will likely not help any independent inventors or even most small businesses, it is certainly within the realm of possibility that a broad based green patent application acceleration campaign will provide assistance to at least a category of independent inventors and start-up companies inventing in the green technology field, an area of our economy that promises to create high paying jobs here in the United States.

Additionally, coming on the heels of the BP disaster in the Gulf of Mexico the expansion of the green tech initiative at the PTO seems to be in line with the overall direction of the Obama Administration, which today shifted away from a true “all of the above” energy solution and is tending away from domestic oil exploration and drilling in favor of green technologies, including increasing the fuel efficiency of automobiles even further.  See Obama shifts energy narrative away from offshore drilling to clean-energy plans. Could it be that the policy of the federal government is actually being coordinated from top to bottom to promote green technologies?

While I don’t agree with the Obama Administration on much outside of what is going on at the USPTO campus in Alexandria, VA, it is hard to argue with a coordinated government effort to promote innovation and technology solutions to ongoing domestic problems. I am pleased to see the Patent Office front and center in such a coordinate effort, and hope that the expansion of this green initiative at the USPTO will lead to faster patents, which in turn will lead to new investments, job creation and perhaps down the road to a coherent national energy policy built on the back of American inventors and entrepreneurs. The outcome could be extremely positive from both an environmental and national security view.

Returning to the specifics of the USPTO green tech initiative, it was on December 8, 2009, that the USPTO originally implemented the Green Technology Pilot Program, which permitted patent applications pertaining to environmental quality, energy conservation, development of renewable energy resources, and greenhouse gas emission reduction to be advanced out of turn for examination, thus allowing these applications to be accorded special status. The pilot program, however, limited the green technologies that could be included and afforded special status for examination priority. Apparently, it was always the intention to open up the expediting of green technologies across the board, the initial classification limitations being put in place to allow the USPTO to balance the workload and gauge resources needed for the program.

The modification to the Green Technology Pilot Program is designed to promote the development and more expedited patenting of a variety of green technologies.  To date, more than 950 requests have been filed by applicants who wish for their application to be eligible for the Green Technology Pilot Program. Only 342 of those have been granted, primarily because many of the inventions weren’t in classifications that were eligible. The lifting of the classification requirements will allow many more applications to be eligible for the program.

The USPTO has reached the point where it no longer feels the classification limitation is necessary because the workload has been balanced with other mechanisms. Furthermore, the classification limitations were causing the denial of petitions for applications that are drawn to green technologies. Thus, effective immediately the U.S. Patent Office is hereby eliminating the classification requirement for any petitions that are decided on or after today’s effective date. Obviously, this will permit more applications to qualify for the program, thereby allowing more inventions related to green technologies to be advanced out of turn for examination and reviewed earlier.

To have your green technology patent application advanced out of turn and awarded special examination priority status the applicant must file a petition to make special under the Pilot Program for Green Technologies that satisfies all other requirements set forth in the Green Technology Notice. For example, to satisfy the eligibility requirements, the petition must contain the following statements.

  1. The petition must include a statement providing the basis for the special status (e.g., for an application pertaining to environmental quality, the petition must state that special status is sought because the invention materially enhances the quality of the environment by contributing to the restoration or maintenance of the basic life-sustaining natural elements).
  2. The petition must also include a statement explaining how the materiality standard is met, unless (a) the application clearly discloses that the claimed invention materially enhances the quality of the environment by contributing to the restoration or maintenance of one of the basic life-sustaining natural elements, or (b) the application disclosure is clear on its face that the claimed invention materially contributes to development of renewable energy or energy conservation, or greenhouse gas emission reduction.

Applicants whose petitions were dismissed or denied solely on the basis that their applications did not meet the classification requirement may file a renewed petition. If the renewed petition is filed within one month of the Federal Register notice publication, it will be given priority as of the date the applicant filed the initial petition.

“There has been a tremendous amount of interest in the Green Technology Pilot Program, and we would like to enable applicants whose inventions did not fall within the initial classifications eligible for the program to be eligible,” said Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Director of the USPTO David Kappos. “By expanding the eligibility criteria for this program, will further accelerate the development of critical green technologies while creating new jobs.”

Additional information the Green Technology Pilot Program page on the USPTO’s Web site.


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