The CLEAN ENERGY PATENT GROWTH INDEX (CEPGI), published quarterly by the CLEANTECH GROUP at Heslin Rothenberg Farley & Mesiti P.C. provides an indication of the trend of innovative activity in the Clean Energy sector. Results from the first quarter of 2015 reveal the CEPGI to have a value of 851 granted U.S. patents, which is the fifth highest total for any quarter on record with the other top four all occurring within the prior year and a half. The first quarter was down 88 compared to the fourth quarter and up 161 versus the same quarter the year before. The quarterly Clean Energy Patent crown again belonged to Toyota, the annual winner for 2014. Solar patents led all other technology sectors in the first quarter for the eighth quarter in a row. Runner up Fuel Cells trailed by over 80 patents.

The granting of patents by the United States Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) is often cited as a measure of the inventive activity and evidence of the effectiveness of research & development investments. Patents are considered to be such an indicator, because to be awarded a patent, it requires not only the efforts of inventors to develop new and non-obvious innovations but also successful handling by patent counsel to shepherd a patent application through the PTO. Thus, the granting of a patent is an indicator that efforts at innovation have been successful and that an innovation had enough perceived value to justify the time and expense in procuring the patent. 

The CEPGI (shown below quarterly) tracks the granting of U.S. patents for the following sub-components: Solar, Wind, Hybrid/Electric Vehicles, Fuel Cells, Hydroelectric, Tidal/Wave, Geothermal, Biomass/Biofuels and Other Clean Renewable Energy. 

Solar patents (302) dropped 44 relative to the fourth quarter of 2014 but were up over 50 compared to the first quarter of last year. Patents in Fuel Cell (220) technologies were barely down (by two) as compared to the fourth quarter and were up more than any of the other technologies (at 58) versus the first quarter of last year. Wind patents dropped the identical amount as the leader versus the fourth quarter and Wind was down three versus the same quarter of 2014. 

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Hybrid/Electric Vehicles (HEV) trailed Wind patents by only three after trailing by six in the third quarter of 2014 but being separated by almost thirty patents in the fourth. HEV patents fell 19 compared to the fourth quarter but were up 38 versus the same period in 2014. Tidal patents were up five over a year before but were down the same amount compared to the final quarter of 2014. 

Biofuel/Biomass patents jumped 13 patents to a total of 58 in contrast to those described above which all fell. There were also 6 more patents granted in this area versus the first quarter of last year. Hydroelectric patents (8) were up four and Geothermal patents (5) up two compared to the fourth quarter with Hydroelectric patents up three and Geothermal down one compared to the same quarter a year prior. 

Retaining the quarterly Clean Energy Patent crown was Toyota (37), also the annual winner for 2014, after several quarters of trading the crown quarterly with GM. Toyota had Fuel Cell patents (26), HEV patents (8), and even a couple Solar patents. This Fuel Cell total was enough to top all others in that category for the first quarter. The Japanese automaker's perennial competitor, GM, had nine fewer granted Clean Energy patents, scoring both Fuel Cell (21) and HEV (7) patents, but trailing Toyota in both categories. Samsung was four Clean Energy patents behind GM at 24, and had 12 Fuel Cell and 10 Solar patents. Edged out by one by Samsung, Honda had 14 Fuel Cell patents and nine in Hybrid/Electric Vehicles. 

LG trailed Honda by three and had 20 granted Clean Energy patents with enough Solar patents (16) to lead the others along with some in HEV (3) and Fuel Cells (1). Ford (17) had 12 Hybrid/Electric Vehicle patents to lead all others in that category, four Fuel Cell patents and one Solar patent. Ford led Vestas by one granted Clean Energy patent. The Danish wind maker (16) took the quarterly Wind patent lead over Siemens - leading the German entity by three Wind patents but only one patent overall as Siemens was also granted a patent on both Fuel cell and HEV technologies. Hyundai tied Siemens and had eight Fuel Cell patents and six in HEV's, along with one in Solar. Rounding out the top ten was GE (12), strong in Wind as usual with seven patents, along with two in Solar, one in Biomass/Biofuels, one in HEV and two more in Other clean energy technologies. The auto companies again scored well with six of the top ten in granted Clean Energy patents. Of honorable mention were Nissan (11, HEV and Fuel Cells), Sunpower (10, all Solar), and Bloom Energy with nine patents in Fuel Cells. 

As noted previously, among the top ten clean energy patent winners, Solar is an also ran despite leading the overall numbers. The number of Fuel Cell patents (87) in this subset far exceeded those in the other technologies. Solar patents (32) placed fourth, trailing Wind by four but trailing 15 behind Hybrid/Electric Vehicle (47) patents. 

Geographically, Japan again led non-U.S. holders of U.S. Clean Energy patents and individual U.S. states, as depicted below in the geographic charts, to take the quarterly geographical Clean Energy patent crown. The perennial leader was up eight compared to the fourth quarter at 185 and up 70 over the year before. Runner-up California trailed almost 100 at 86 and was up one compared to the fourth quarter. Korea (84) led Germany by 11 and was lower (by 11) versus Q4 and higher (by 16) than the same period in 2014. Germany fell five granted Clean Energy patents compared to the last quarter of last year but was up 22 compared to the first quarter of 2014. 

Trailing Germany by almost 20, Michigan (55) was down 12 from the fourth quarter yet up 12 over the first part of last year. In a pivot back to Asia, Taiwan (29) was between the home state of the U.S. automakers and the Empire State (21). New York dropped by half since the fourth quarter and was down five over the same time a year prior. Taiwan jumped seven and six relative to the same time periods. Denmark tied New York after having tied Taiwan a few quarters ago. Denmark was down 13 over Q4 but tied its Clean Energy patent haul as compared to the first quarter of 2014. Canada was next in the quest for Clean Energy patent glory with 19 granted patents, up one and 13 compared to the fourth quarter and first quarter of 2014, respectively. Texas trailed the US's neighbor to the north by three granted patents in the clean energy field with a three and one patent jump compared to the preceding quarter and the corresponding quarter a year before. 

Ohio (15) was next followed by Colorado, Pennsylvania, France and Great Britain which all had 13 granted patents in the Clean Energy space. 

Of the Clean Energy patents granted in the first quarter, 328 were owned by US entities while 523 were owned by those outside the US. The advantage owned by the international patent grantees rose by 20 compared to the fourth quarter.

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Trend lines by quarter through the first quarter of 2015 for the CEPGI and for each of the CEPGI components are depicted below:

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CEPGI yearly totals through 2014 are depicted below:

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