On December 7, 2009, the USPTO announced a new pilot program under which the patent process for green and clean air technology inventions will be expedited. The announcement was timed to coincide with the COP15 International Climate Treaty symposium in Copenhagen, Denmark. The program took immediate effect on December 8, 2009, and will last for 12 months. Prior to the introduction of this Green Technology Pilot Program ("GTPP"), the only avenue for expedited examination of patent applications directed to green technologies was a Petition to Make Special, a less than optimal alternative because of the significant cost burdens associated with that procedure.
According to a recent speech by the Director of the PTO, David Kappos, before the Intellectual Property Owners Association, the processing time for green patent applications until final disposition runs to typically 40 months, due to an unacceptable backlog. The GTPP program should reduce this process by one year.
The Pilot Program will be applied to the first 3,000 applications related to green technologies for which a petition is filed. Only patent applications which have not yet received a first office action may be eligible for participation. Eligible patent applications will include those for inventions which materially contribute to enhancing environmental quality, such as discovery of development of renewable energy resources (including hydroelectric, solar and wind), energy efficiency utilization, or greenhouse gas reduction.
Shortened patent examinations will lead to earlier patenting. This will enable investors to receive funding and launch businesses more quickly.
Accelerated examinations for green and clean air technologies have also been made available in the U.K. and in South Korea with even more rapid handling of patent applications. The U.K. Intellectual Property Office anticipates that green technology applications may issue in as few as nine months, taking years off the normal pendency. In an extraordinary "superspeed" program announced by the Korean Intellectual Property Office, applications which would normally take 18 months to proceed to issue in Korea may now proceed to issue in the unprecedented time of a mere 30 days or less.