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May 2010

New USPTO Rule Allows More Patent Applications to Qualify for Green Patent Program

Today's Rule Change:  The USPTO's Green Patent Program officially began in December 2009, allowing certain green technology patent applications to receive expedited examination. Unfortunately, only patent applications that fell into certain technological classifications could be fast tracked. This proved to severely limit what constituted eligible "green" technologies. As a result, the majority of applications to the program were rejected.  Today, the US Patent Office formally removed this classification requirement.  As a result, a much wider variety of green technology patent applications are now eligible for fast track processing. (click here to view today's Federal Register Notice )
 
Green Program Requirements:  To qualify for the Green Patent Program, the applicant's petition must explain how the technology "materially enhances the quality of the environment." Common examples include linking the invention to energy conservation, renewable energy development, or decreased greenhouse gas emissions.  This definition is quite open ended and allows for creativity when explaining a product's (or process') environmental benefits to the Patent Office. As a result, many patent applications should now be "green" and eligible.
 
Two Hurdles Remain:

  • First - there are only 3,000 eligible slots in the program. The good news is that only about 10% of this total has been filled to date. However, 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 (and be given priority). Therefore, these slots should start to fill up as the many previously rejected applications start to re-apply. (Note: The Patent Office is considering expanding the program beyond 3000 eligible slots.)

  • Second - only patent applications filed before the program launched on December 8, 2009 are eligible to apply. The previous technology categorization requirements were brought into force to "help balance the workload and resources for the program" within the Patent Office. The Patent Office has issued more patents during the past two weeks than in any two week period in history. This appears to be due to a recent spike in the allowance rate. Optimistically speaking, the requirement that this program be limited to applications filed before December 8, 2009 could be withdrawn in future. We will have to wait and see.

Green Technology & Climate Change

David R. Heckadon


Green Technology & Climate Change
Intellectual Property

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