On December 7, 2009, the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) announced the "Pilot Program for Green Technologies Including Greenhouse Gas Reduction". This pilot program provides patent applicants with the opportunity to accelerate examination of U.S. patent applications for green technologies. The program became effective on December 8, 2009 and will operate for a period of at least 12 months.

Eligible patent applications include those for inventions that materially contribute to:

  1. the discovery or development of renewable energy resources (such as hydroelectric, solar, wind, renewable biomass, landfill gas, ocean, geothermal, and municipal solid waste energy);
  2. the more efficient utilization and conservation of energy resources (for example, inventions relating to the reduction of energy consumption in combustion systems, industrial equipment, and household appliances); or
  3. the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions (for example, inventions which contribute to advances in nuclear power generation technology, or fossil fuel power generation or industrial processes with greenhouse gas-abatement technology),

as well as inventions which, generally, materially enhance the quality of the environment by contributing to the restoration or maintenance of the basic-life sustaining natural elements.

Clearly, the list of inventions is intended to be as inclusive as possible. This is good news for clean technology businesses that are in the throes of research and development and intend on filing patents in the U.S. Accelerated examination will likely lead to earlier patenting, thereby crystallizing intrinsic value at an earlier stage. This means that financing may be easier to obtain at an earlier stage. As well, patent enforcement steps can be taken sooner to halt first mover advantages being enjoyed by competitors that are free-riding on the research and development efforts of another.

Further details about this USPTO pilot program can be found on the USPTO website.