Encouraging the growth of green technology and green jobs has been a priority for the Obama administration. The recent announcement that the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office will fast-track green technology patent applications is a step in the right direction.
According to U.S. Commerce Secretary Gary Locke the USPTO pilot program will speed up the process of examining certain green technology patent applications, with the ultimate goal of promoting U.S. competitiveness in the green sector.
“American competitiveness depends on innovation, and innovation depends on creative Americans developing new technology,” Locke said. “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.”
To be eligible, patents must materially contribute to environmental quality, finding or developing renewable energy resources, improving energy efficiency or cutting greenhouse gas emissions. The pilot program will start by targeting the first 3,000 patent applications already on file whose holders apply for expedited review.
The pilot program will cut the average time it takes for these technologies to be patented by one year. However, since the patent review process currently takes an average of 40 months, there’s still a long way to go in truly speeding up the process.
But, the Patent Office is actively working to reduce the time it takes for patents to be reviewed. Another recently announced initiative, the Patent Application Backlog Reduction Stimulus Plan, allows small entities that have multiple patent applications pending to apply for special status to get one of their patents examined faster. However, in order to do so, they must be willing to abandon another of their pending applications. The goal of the program is to give applicants more control over the order in which their patents move through the system, and also help get rid of the backlog of unexamined patents-currently nearing 719,000.
If the pilot is successful, the USPTO plans to look into ways to expand the initiative. You can get more details on the USPTO pilot program in the Federal Register and at the USPTO’s Web site.
Do you think this might set off a new wave of patent trolling in the green industry?
Try to say “Patent Application Backlog Reduction Stimulus Plan” over and over for some time… 😉 A backlog of 719,000 unexamined patents!
Yes Martin, the fact fact that 719,000 patents are backlogged is staggering. Hope they get their act together.
Glad to see the path has been paved for innovative inventors. It’s about time, I’m sure we’ll begin to see great progress real soon.
We still have a backlog of 1.2 million patents and a patent processing time of 5 to 8 years (see http://www.inventionstatistics.com/Patent_Backlog_Patent_Office_Backlog.html and http://www.inventionstatistics.com/Patent_Approval_Time.html ). It used to take only 2 – 3 years to process a patent so there’s no real substantive gain for Greentech patents. The net effect of this is a delay of 3 to 6 years for the next innovative technology breakthrough. Imagine if the iPhone, iPod, Google patent had been delayed by 5 to 8 years. On the one hand Congress is spending billions to stimulate the economy. On the other hand it is handcuffing the economy and hobbling innovation by braking the patent process. Whether you support this or not you can express your opinion at http://www.inventorinsights.com/Congress_Patent_Office_Oversight_Committee.html or http://www.inventionstatistics.com/Inventor_Opinion_Polls.html
Keep up the great work Rieva,
It’s possible that this might encourage increased patent trolling in green industries. This would be an unfortunate result. Patent trolls are proving to be a plague on intellectual property and upon innovation; they are private entities that effectively work to bring the federal patent law system to its knees. However, if enough trolling resulted from the “green” patent fast track, at least it might spur certain government interests to finally step up and take action against the practice of trolling.
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Here is an amazing quote by USPTO Director David Kappos on just how serious the backlog is in terms of its impact on downstream economic growth and prosperity:
Nearly nine months into his tenure as director of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, David Kappos said Monday [May 3, 2010] that he thinks the agency still is stifling millions of potential jobs [following the financial meltdown triggered in 2008] because of its inability to keep pace with the volume and complexity of the applications it receives.
While he lacks empirical data on the number of jobs that ‘our country’s innovation agency’ impedes because of its inability to keep up, Kappos said his instincts tell him the number runs into the millions.
‘Hundreds of thousands of groundbreaking innovations that are sitting on the shelf literally waiting to be examined – jobs not being created, lifesaving drugs not going to the marketplace, companies not being funded, businesses not being formed – there’s really not any good news in any of this,’ Kappos said during a panel discussion at the annual trade show of the Biotechnology Industry Organization.
What’s more, innovation has become the main driver of economic growth, Kappos said. The agency’s backlog impedes economic advancement at a time when China and the rest of Asia are spending unprecedented sums on research and development, challenging the United States in areas of technology innovation where it once reigned supreme, he said.
(John Schmid of the Journal Sentinel, “Backlog of patents still stifling potential jobs, director says,” Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Milwaukee, Wisconsin, May 3, 2010)