The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office ("USPTO") recently announced the expansion of a pilot program for fast-tracking examination of certain pending clean energy technology patent applications.

The program is designed to help spur clean energy innovation and bring new green technologies to market more quickly.

Originally, the program was limited to patent applications falling within a small number of USPTO classifications. The USPTO now has removed that limitation. "There has been a tremendous amount of interest in the Green Technology Pilot Program, and we would like to enable applicants whose inventions did not fall within the initial classifications to be eligible," said USPTO Director David Kappos when announcing the expansion. Kappos further explained, "Expanding the eligibility criteria for this program will further accelerate the development of critical green technologies while creating new jobs."

Under the program, the first 3,000 eligible pending clean energy technology patent applications for which a proper petition is filed will be given special status and examined on an expedited basis.

To be eligible, an application must:

  • be a new, non-reissue, non-provisional utility application;
  • be filed before December 8, 2009; and
  • have three or less independent claims and twenty or less total claims, claiming an invention relating to an eligible clean energy technology.

Eligible clean energy technologies include inventions that materially enhance the quality of the environment or that materially contribute to:

  • discovery or development of renewable energy resources;
  • more efficient utilization and conservation of energy resources; or
  • reduction in greenhouse gas emissions.

Program applicants whose initial petitions were dismissed or denied because their applications did not fall within the scope of the original limited classifications may file a renewed petition. As long as the renewed petition is filed before June 21, 2010, it will be given priority based on the date the applicant filed the initial petition.

Additional details regarding the expanded pilot program are available here: http://www.uspto.gov/patents/init_events/green_tech.jsp.

An estimated 25,000 pending clean energy patent applications are eligible for the pilot program. Because the program currently is open to only the first 3,000 eligible applications, interested applicants should prepare and file petitions as quickly as possible.

For clean energy innovators filing new patent applications after the December 7, 2009 deadline for the above-described pilot program, the USPTO continues to offer expedited examination under its long-standing Accelerated Examination Program. More details on this program and other clean energy IP strategies are available at http://www.orrick.com/fileupload/1813.pdf and via the USPTO's website at http://www.uspto.gov/patents/process/file/accelerated/index.jsp.