In the modern world we need more environmentally friendly solutions in many fields of technology. Inventors who develop green technologies, and want to seek patent protection, often have to wait several years to obtain protection. This impacts the clean technology sector and can be a deterrent to further research and investment.
To address this, various patent offices around the world have implemented programmes that fast track patent applications, in some cases reducing the time to grant down to just months. This blog will provide a summary of these fast track programmes implemented around the world. The first to be developed was the UK’s Green Channel.
UK: Green Channel for accelerating patent applications
In May 2009 the UKIPO introduced the Green Channel for patent applications. There are no strict rules determining whether an invention is environmentally friendly. If you wish to apply for prosecution through the Green Channel you must submit a written request stating:
- How your invention is environmentally friendly;
- Which actions you wish to accelerate: search, examination, combined search and examination, and/or publication.
The Green Channel is of course similar to the traditional methods of accelerating patent prosecution (Patents Fast Grant, Fast Track for PCT(UK) and Patent Prosecution Highway (PPH)); however it can provide a good alternative if your invention can be considered “green”.
More information regarding the UKIPO’s green channel can be found at their website here.
To date nearly 1900 patent applications have been filed through the Green Channel at the UKIPO. Of these, nearly 1200 have been granted. In 2013 the average time to grant for a green channel patent application was 11 months.
These applications cover a wide variety of inventions from renewable energy solutions, such as hydro, wind, solar and geothermal, to other clean technologies such as recycling. Julie Richardson discusses an interesting example, kite power, in her blog which can be found here.
Green patent fast-tracking in other jurisdictions
There are many other countries that also offer a similar accelerated prosecution options. Many of them are similar to the UK green channel, in that they require a written request and often require a statement. Some such as the US are an exception, where the green patent acceleration schemes were only temporary with a limited capacity. Others such as Japan are a permanent option. A few examples can be found below:
The Korean IPO (KIPO) introduced super-accelerated examinations for green technology in October 2009. Under this system, patent applications must be legally classified as “green” (via governmental financial aid or certification) or designated in environmental legislation in order to be fast-tracked.
According to their website, linked here, examination reports can be issued after just one month, and on average examination is six months shorter than regular examination.
The Japanese Patent Office (JPO) will allow accelerated examination for inventions that either have an energy saving effect or contribute to CO2 reduction. Started in November 2009, this programme requires applicants to provide a short description that explains that the claimed invention has an advantage in reducing energy consumption, reducing CO2, and the like. Additionally, an applicant must provide disclosure of the prior art documents and explanations of the comparisons with the invention and the prior art. More information can be found at the JPO’s website here.
The USPTO launched a pilot programme in December 2009 that initially limited patents applicable for fast-track to a specific classification. After modification the pilot was extended to allow any classification, and finally closed after around 3500 petitions for a green patent were received under the pilot. In total 5550 petitions were made to the programme, of which 3533 were accepted. Of these, 1062 resulted in granted patents. More information can be found at the USPTO here.
In August 2012 the Chinese State Intellectual Office (SIPO) launched a green patent programme. Technologies that were eligible for accelerated examination were initially limited to energy-saving technologies, environmental protection, new energy, new energy vehicles, and select other categories. However, these were broadened in 2017 to cover a wider range of green technologies.
Australia, Israel, Canada, Brazil, Taiwan
In addition to the previous countries, Australia, Israel, Canada, Brazil and Taiwan also provide green patent acceleration programmes. Each may have a different definition of “green”; however they all allow faster and easier prosecution of valuable patent applications, and a faster route to grant.
There does appear to be a distinct encouragement towards alternative methods of accelerating patent applications in many different jurisdictions. This encouragement is a good indication that international bodies are aware of the need to fast-track applications for environmentally friendly purposes. In some cases the time to grant is drastically reduced allowing applicants to fully protect their inventions. In other cases the green patent fast-tracking is simply an alternative to the already established accelerated examination options. In either situation, the opportunity to have a green invention fast-tracked application should be considered.
This article is for general information only. Its content is not a statement of the law on any subject and does not constitute advice. Please contact Reddie & Grose LLP for advice before taking any action in reliance on it.