The UK Intellectual Property Office (UKIPO) has launched an initiative to give priority to patent applications directed to technology having environmental benefits.
The initiative was announced this month by David Lammy, Minister for Intellectual Property, and took effect on May 12th. Instead of the current average of 2-3 years for an application to get through the UKIPO, an application could be granted in just 9 months under this scheme.
The UKIPO press release describes the new procedure this way:
Accelerated search and/or examination of the patent application will be made available to any patent applicant who makes a reasonable assertion that the invention in the patent application is one which has some environmental benefit. The application will be fully searched and examined by a technically-qualified patent examiner.
Applicants can choose which aspects of the application process they want to accelerate, including search, examination, combined search and examination, and/or publication.
From looking at the UKIPO Fast Grant Guide, it appears that the UK process does not require shifting much of the searching and examination burden to the applicant, as is the case with the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office’s expedited examination scheme.
The U.S. Petition to Make Special procedure, which is available in a number of instances, including for inventions relating to environmental benefits and energy development or conservation, requires the applicant to conduct a pre-examination search, submit a copy of the references deemed “most closely related” to the invention and describe how the invention is patentable over those references.
These requirements can substantially increase the up front legal fees associated with filing a patent application and discourage applicants from taking advantage of the expedited process in the U.S.