On December 7, 2009, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office ("USPTO") introduced a new pilot program for the purpose of accelerating the development and deployment of "green" technology, creating "green" jobs, and promoting U.S. competitiveness in this vital sector.
To achieve this end, the USPTO is offering to accelerate examination of certain "green" technologies, which may ultimately expedite the grant of patent rights, in exchange for early publication of the green technologies. Green technology patent applications accepted into this program will have the benefit of advancing ahead of other currently pending, non-green applications.
In order for a patent application to qualify for this pilot program, the following requirements must be met:
- The application must be a non-reissue, non-provisional utility application;
- The application must have an actual filing date, not an effective filing date, prior to December 8, 2009;
- The technology disclosed in the application must be classified in a specific group of "green" USPTO classifications. Such classifications may be generally characterized as technology materially enhancing the quality of the environment by contributing to the restoration or maintenance of the basic life-sustaining natural elements, or technology materially contributing to the discovery or development of renewable energy resources, more efficient utilization and conservation of energy resources, or the reduction of green house gas emissions;
- The application must contain only a single invention;
- Accelerated Examination must be requested by December 8, 2010 and at least one day prior to issuance of a first Office Action on the merits of the application; and
- Applicant must request early publication.
Currently, the USPTO is only allowing 3000 applications into the program, but this number may be extended at the discretion of the USPTO.
If you have an application on file with the USPTO relating to "green" technology, this accelerated program warrants immediate and serious consideration. Early publication under this USPTO pilot program, in some instances, may qualify your subject application as prior art to your patenting program, which could be detrimental and outweigh any benefits of an accelerated approval from the USPTO. Major considerations that must be contemplated when assessing the feasibility of this program include the current status and future research and development plans for the invention. All in all, this is an important new program that any company developing green technologies should seriously consider.