In a previous post, this author provided background on the UKIPO’s “Green Channel” for expedited examination of patent applications drawn to environmentally-friendly technologies.
As noted in that post, the program’s two-year anniversary recently past. To mark the occasion, and in recognition of the 100th green patent granted “under the Green Channel acceleration scheme,” the UKIPO recently issued a press release highlighting the program’s success.
In addition to noting that the 100th green patent had issued, the press release notes that since the initiative was launched in May 2009, the UKIPO had received over 450 green patent applications. The average patent in the program was granted just eight months after the request for acceleration was entered, a measurable improvement from the UKIPO’s 36 month pendency for normal applications.
In prior public statements, the UKIPO has indicated that it is pleased with the positive reception the “Green Channel” initiative has obtained from both users and the media.
One of the stated goals of the program is to “spread the message that patents can be of assistance in dealing with the challenges of climate change,” a message reiterated in the UKIPO’s recent press release.
Because the UK government has taken a public and leading stance worldwide with respect to climate change issues, it has an interest in encouraging other patent offices to adopt similar programs – and it has made efforts in that direction. The UKIPO’s lobbying efforts have resulted in either expressions of interest or actual implementation of similar schemes from a number of other countries, including China, Brazil, Australia, Japan, and South Korea.
And in order to make information about applications accepted into the program easily available to the public, the UKIPO created a publically-accessible “Green Channel” database. This searchable database allows users to view published applications and granted patents which have been accelerated under the “Green Channel”.
Ambitiously, the UKIPO hopes that future innovation of “green” technologies will be spurred by allowing businesses and inventors “easy access to green ideas and inventions” and claims that “green patents provide innovative businesses to develop green products that can be brought quickly into the marketplace” – particularly if those green patents are “fast tracked.”
In the interest of obtaining some additional perspective on the usage of the “Green Channel” by applicants to date, the database was accessed by this author. As noted in the recent press release the “Green Channel” is being utilized, and search of the database shows that it is being used in a variety of technology areas, and by geographically diverse applicants.
A search of the “Green Channel” Database on May 17, 2011 yielded 208 hits, or 208 published applications or issued patents that have been processed through the UKIPO’s “Green Channel.” So far in 2011, there have been 7 additions to the database, or about one entry a month.
Most of the utilization of the “Green Channel” appears to come from the EU, with Great Britain providing the vast majority of applications. As of this writing, the United States was the owner’s country of residence for about 10% of the applications listed in the database, with a few frequent users like Protean Holdings, iGo Inc., and others.
In fact, Protean received the 100th patent granted under the “Green Channel,” that is directed to a “regenerative braking system for electric and hybrid vehicles.” Other countries represented in the database are Singapore, Taiwan, and Mauritius.
As noted above, the range of technologies represented in the database is diverse, ranging from compostable toilets to headlamps to floating recycling plants. These data points indicate that the UKIPO’s “Green Channel” is being used as a viable alternative for patent applicants seeking a forum for expedited examination on the basis of environmental benefit.
In this author’s opinion, there is little doubt that the UKIPO’s “Green Channel” initiative is off to a good start. Compared to the well-chronicled fits and starts of the USPTO’s Green Technology Pilot Program, the “Green Channel” appears to be a smooth-running program operating as intended, with relatively low barriers of entry to interested participants.
Protean Holdings’ Intellectual Property Manager, one example of an interested participant, is quoted in the most recent press release speaking very favorably of the “Green Channel,” mentioning the importance to his “young company” in getting its green patents issued quickly (“as soon as 10 months after filing”) so that Protean can “attract new investment and prospective customers.”
While not every prospective patentee will be assured of a similar outcome, sophisticated patent counsel are well-urged to consider the “Green Channel” as a resource for mission-critical and time-sensitive patent applications, irrespective of whether the applicant is a sole inventor, a start-up, or a multinational corporation.
Hopefully, utilization of the program will increase, and applicants will begin to leverage the “Green Channel”, in conjunction with patent cooperation agreements, e.g. the Patent Prosecution Highway, to get “green” patents issued faster and thereby spur additional innovation of environmentally-beneficial technologies.
Gaston Kroub is a partner in the New York office of Locke Lord Bissell & Liddell LLP. Gaston serves as the co-chair of the Greentech Committee of the NYSBA’s IP Section and has been accredited as a LEED Green Associate. Gaston is a registered patent attorney whose practice focuses on intellectual property litigation and counseling.