PTO to Fast Track Green Tech Patents

Under a new pilot program, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office hopes to slice at least a year off the process for green technology patent applications. U.S. Commerce Secretary Gary Locke says the initiative will allow inventors to secure funding, create businesses and bring green technologies into use much sooner.

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office plans to fast track green technology patent applications under a pilot program announced Dec. 7 by Commerce Secretary Gary Locke and Energy Secretary Steven Chu. Pending patent applications in green technologies will be eligible for special status and given an expedited examination.

The pilot program will reduce the total processing time for green technology patents by an average of one year. Currently, the average time for applications in green technology areas is approximately 30 months for a first office action and 40 months for a final decision. Under the 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.

"American competitiveness depends on innovation, and innovation depends on creative Americans developing new technology," Locke said in a joint press conference with Chu. "By ensuring that many new products will receive patent protection more quickly, we can encourage our brightest innovators to invest needed resources in developing new technologies and help bring those technologies to market more quickly."

Locke said earlier patenting of these technologies allows inventors to secure funding, create businesses and bring green technologies into use much sooner.

"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," USPTO Director David Kappos said in a statement. "Applications in this pilot program will see a significant savings in pendency, which will help bring green innovations to market more quickly."

Carl Horton, General Electric's chief intellectual property counsel, heaped praise on the PTO initiative. "We hail this initiative as an excellent incentive to fuel further innovation of clean technology and a terrific mechanism to speed the dissemination of these patented technologies throughout the world," he said in a statement.