Archive for Green Patents

Sustainable Marks and GreenTech IP Summit Coming to Chicago 6/27-6/29



American Conference Institute ( has announced a new event, the Green Technology Intellectual Property Summit.  Being held in Chicago on June 27 – 29, this conference takes a unique approach to discussing the IP issues associated with emerging green technologies.  Sessions will cover not only the nuts and bolts of protecting green inventions, but will also engage attendees with panels on utilizing new approaches to patent valuation in the wake of the America Invents Act, building business strategies that help maximize the value of an IP portfolio, and crafting mutually beneficial licensing agreements.


In addition, attendees will learn best practices for producing effective and compliant marketing programs, and how to navigate the increasingly murky waters of creating high-quality marks that will receive protection from the USPTO.  Along with Scot Case of Terra Choice, I will be presenting a session of green trademarks and certification marks.


Finally, a keynote speech from a commercialization and investment expert will help attendees learn how to present their IP portfolios in the best light to potential investors and utilize strategies to maximize the profit potential of their products.  This event boasts a stellar faculty of in-house and private practice counsel, and includes representatives from:


The US Patent and Trademark Office * The US Department of Energy * The University of California, Berkeley

UL Environment * General Electric * Alstom Power * Foro Energy * Gevo, Inc. * Virent, Inc.


Sustainable Marks readers are entitled to a discount when referencing the code: SM 200.  Group rates are also available – a group of four will receive a 25% discount off the full rate.  You can learn more and register at  You can also register by calling 888-224-2480 or by fax at 877-927-1563.


Hope to see you there!


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USPTO Extends Green Patent Program Again, But its Days are Numbered

The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) announced yesterday that the deadline for filing petitions under the Green Technology Pilot Program, originally set to expire on December 31 of this year, is being extended through March 30, 2012 or until 3,500 applications (500 more than the original cap of 3,000 applications) have been accorded special status under the program.


“In view of the success of the Green Technology Pilot Program the program will be extended until we receive 3,500 applications or reach the final program sunset date,” said Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Director of the USPTO David Kappos. While the Green Technology program “will soon draw to a close, in the future all applicants may use the newly enacted Prioritized Examination (Track I) program, which is currently available to all technologies and categories of invention, to have their application accorded special status.”


According to the USPTO, program statistics show that stakeholders participating in the Green Technology Pilot Program have obtained patents much more quickly as compared to the standard examination process.  Currently, the average time between granting of a green technology petition and first office action on the merits is just 78 days.  In many instances, applicants have had their Green Technology inventions patented in less than one year from the application filing date. More than 2,900 petitions have been granted to green technology patent applicants since the pilot began in December 2009.


Prioritized Examination Track (Track I), which is part of the USPTO’s Three-Track Program, and is being offered up as an alternative for green patent applications once the Green Technology Program ends, is supposed to provide applicants with greater control over when their applications are examined and promote greater efficiency in the patent examination process. Track I allows applicants to have their patent applications processed to final disposition within 12 months from prioritized status being granted.  However, Track I comes with hefty fees – $4,800, or $2,400 for a small entity, plus a $130 processing fee.  As a result, while Track I will allow green technologies to move faster through the USPTO, they will be no longer be accorded special status and will have to pay the same premium as anyone else for accelerated examination.



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Is the USPTO GreenTech Pilot Program Working?

Green Tech Pilot Program


Not according to SMU Dedman School of Law’s Sarah Tran.  In her recent article, Expediting Innovation: The Quest for a New Sputnik Moment, Prof. Tran takes the position that the USPTO’s GreenTech Pilot Program is not as green as it looks.  The program’s stated purpose is to promote green innovation by sending patent applications for green technology to the top of the pile, but it is rarely used by patent applicants, and Prof. Tran argues that the program is not serving the purpose for which it was implemented.


The article includes a discussion of the initial term of the program, which was hampered by having been limited only to particular technology groups believed to be the ones that would encompass green technology.  Of course, the truth is that green technology is incredibly diverse and can fall into almost any of the USPTO’s art groups.  That restriction has since been removed. Another cited problem with the program is that it limits the number of claims in a candidate application, although that restriction also has applied to the non-green accelerated examination program.


Prof. Tran also maintains that the USPTO has overstated the benefits of the program, and that it is a rational decision on the part of applicants to not undertake the additional costs and labor of meeting the program’s requirements in exchange for shaving perhaps only a few months from the pendency time of their applications. According to an anonymous PTO representative interviewed by Tran, the program is so restrictive because it is designed to not be too attractive to applicants, because if it were attractive, it is feared that the volume of applications would overwhelm the already-backlogged USPTO’s ability to examine them.  Of course, that raises some questions, like “Why have a program that you do not want people to use?” and “How can the USPTO effectively promote green innovation under any program if it lacks the funding and Examiner bandwith to handle the applications that will come in?”


Tran suggests that the program can be improved by eliminating most of the eligibility requirements, including the restriction on the number and type of claims, by examining green patent applications fast enough to make it worthwhile to take the trouble to file them as green, and through active collaboration with other agencies to define what constitutes a green invention so that the program can be focused on those areas.


The theme of the article is that we find ourselves at a point in time where there must be a concerted national effort towards technological process in eco-friendly technologies to meet the the environmental threat, much like the effort that was put forth to propel the U.S. into space after the Soviet launch of Sputnik.  But the question remains, how do we get that done?


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Canada Institutes Its Own Green Patent Fast Track

Following the example of  accelerated examination programs for green inventions in the U.S., Japan, South Korea, and the U.K., Canada has instituted its own fast track for patents with green subject matter.


It is hoped that “[a]ccelerating the prosecution of patent applications relating to environmental (green) technologies within the Canadian intellectual property system will foster investment and expedite commercialization of technologies that could help to resolve or mitigate environmental impacts or to conserve the natural environment and resources.”


Eligible applicants save the usual CA$500 fee required to expedite a patent application under Canada’s other fast track programs. To qualify, the applicant must submit a declaration stating that their application relates to technology the commercialization of which would help to resolve or mitigate environmental impacts or conserve the natural environment and resources. Applications that are currently abandoned must be reinstated before April 30, 2011 in order to be eligible for advanced examination.


Under the new program, the Canadian Intellectual Property Office (CIPO) will provide a first office action to the applicant within two months, as opposed to the ordinary wait time of 21-33 months.  Of course, this program only accelerates examination, it does not lower the substantive standards of patentability.


It will be interesting to see how Canada’s definition of an eligible green technology works out.  At first blush, it appears to be a middle ground between the U.K.’s definition, viewed by some as overly broad, and the U.S. standard, which has been criticized for being overly narrow.  It will also be instructive to compare the number of applications filed under this program to those filed with its counterparts abroad, particularly the U.S., where relatively few green patent applications have sought accelerated examination. Also, as CIPO will not consider the accuracy of the supporting declaration, another possible issue is whether applicants of non-green technologies will attempt to sneak their applications in under this program.



Vertical triband (red, white, red) with a red maple leaf in the centre of the white


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Blogs We Read: The Green Patent Blog

Check out the Green Patent Blog, by fellow registered patent attorney (and biology guy) Eric Lane. The blog, which is coming up on its third anniversary, is dedicated to covering intellectual property issues in clean technology, with a particular focus on ongoing patent litigation and newly-published patent applications in the area.

Eric practices at Luce, Forward, Hamilton & Scripps in San Diego, California, where he is in the Intellectual Property and Climate Change & Clean Technologies practice groups.

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