The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) recently launched the Green Technology Pilot Program to accelerate the development and deployment of green technologies, help create green jobs, and promote U.S. competitiveness in the clean technology sector. In the press release announcing the Pilot Program, the Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Director of the USPTO, David Kappos explained, “Every day an important green tech innovation is hindered from coming to market is another day we harm our planet and another day lost in creating green businesses and green jobs.”

According to its own statistics, the USPTO takes on average 30 months to issue an initial office action for green technology patent applications and approximately 40 months to make a final determination on the patentability of such applications. In the normal process, applications are taken up for examination based on their filing date. Recognizing that over a three and half year wait is too long in the green technology sector, the Pilot Program provides a mechanism for green technology patent applications to be advanced, out of turn, to examination without having to pay any additional fees or provide any additional examination support documentation. The USPTO estimates that this Pilot Program will reduce the examination time of these applications on average by one year.

The Pilot Program broadly defines the term “green technologies” as technologies that pertain to environmental quality, energy conservation, development of renewable energy resources, or greenhouse gas emission reduction. Despite this broad definition, the USPTO currently requires that a patent application be classified in one of 79 specific U.S. patent classifications outlined in the Pilot Program to be eligible.

The Pilot Program only applies to non-provisional utility applications filed prior to December 8, 2009 that have yet to be examined. Applications that are either filed after December 8, 2009 or already being examined are not eligible for the Pilot Program. The Pilot Program is set to expire on December 8, 2010 and the USPTO only guarantees that it will accept the first 3,000 petitions to make an application special under the Pilot Program. Thereafter, the USPTO will evaluate whether the Pilot Program should be extended based on the USPTO’s workload and available resources. Thus, time is of the essence for those wanting to take advantage of the Pilot Program.

While there are limitations on the number and type of claims that can be included in the application and a requirement that an applicant waive its right to object to a restriction requirement, the Pilot Program does provide an inexpensive mechanism to expedite the examination of a green tech patent application. Such an expedited examination can prove beneficial to those looking to enforce their patent rights as quickly as possible and/or those looking for funding options.

Source: Inside INdiana

The Official Notice of the Pilot Program can be found at 74 Fed. Reg. 64666 (Dec. 8, 2009) and the USPTO Press Release for the Pilot program can be found at www.uspto.gov/news/pr/2009/09_33.jsp.