Our January 2010 issue included a report about the USPTO’s “Green Technology Pilot Program,” which affords applicants the ability to petition to have an application “made special” if the application pertains to environmental quality, energy conservation, development of renewable energy resources, and greenhouse gas emission reduction. This program is expected to reduce the time it takes to obtain a patent by an average of one year.1 Similar prosecution accelerating programs for green technologies have also been initiated by the Intellectual Property Office (IPO) of the United Kingdom and the Korean Intellectual Property Office (KIPO). Applicants taking advantage of the United Kingdom program are expected to be able to obtain a patent in as little as nine months, while applicants taking advantage of the South Korean program can potentially obtain a patent in as little as one month.
To qualify for the “Green Channel” for accelerated patent examination in the United Kingdom, the patent application must relate to green or environmentally-friendly technologies and must include a statement indicating the same. Further, applicants must request: (1) a combined search and examination; (2) an accelerated search and/or examination; and (3) early publication. If each of these requirements is met, the examination of the patent will be accelerated, and according to the IPO of the United Kingdom, a patent may grant in as little as nine months.2
To qualify for “superspeed” examination in South Korea, applicants must: (1) submit an application; (2) request a prior art search to be performed by a KIPO-operated search agency; and (3) submit the search results to the KIPO. The KIPO program is more restrictive of the technologies that qualify for “superspeed” examination in comparison to the United States and the United Kingdom. Qualifying technology in South Korea must be related to minimizing the discharge of pollutants or technologies that have received green funding or authentication for green growth. However, while the average time period for ordinary examinations in the KIPO is about 18 months, patents evaluated under the “superspeed” examination program may grant in as little as one month.3
Patent applicants and assignees of applications directed to green technologies should consider these programs for expediting the patenting of their inventions in the United States, United Kingdom, and South Korea.