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 .