Early grant of a patent can be desirable not only for enforcement purposes, but also for businesses for which it is crucial to attract investors and secure funding. In addition, early grant in the United Kingdom specifically can give patent applicants options for accelerating their overseas applications via the UK Intellectual Property Office’s (UKIPO’s) numerous Patent Prosecution Highway (PPH) agreements with its foreign counterparts (for further details please see "Patent Prosecution Highway: FAQs"). The UKIPO’s Green Channel provides an attractive route to early grant for patent applicants with inventions with environmental benefits.
What is the Green Channel?
The Green Channel was introduced in May 2009 to encourage and fast-track green technologies by accelerating the prosecution procedure for these applications, with the aim to get these technologies onto the market more quickly. Typically, prosecution of a UK patent application may take two to three years, or longer in certain technological areas. Applications in the Green Channel proceed like any other UK patent application, except at a faster pace. As a result, a patent application navigating the Green Channel may be granted in as little as nine months from the application filing date, according to the UKIPO.
How do I enter the Green Channel?
A great attraction of the Green Channel is the simplicity of entering it. All that is required is a written request, filed at any stage in prosecution, indicating how the invention relates to green or environmentally friendly technology, and stating which actions the applicant wishes to accelerate (ie, search, examination or publication). There are no forms or, significantly, any fees to pay.
The ability to choose which actions to accelerate also gives applicants more control over the course of their applications. For instance, if accelerated search and examination are requested then, with a fair wind, a final verdict on patentability might be received before an application is prepared for publication, giving the applicant the chance to withdraw it and thus avoid revealing its technology if the verdict is unfavourable.
How environmentally friendly must the invention be?
No specific environmental standard must be met in order to proceed via the Green Channel. In fact, the UKIPO takes the generous view that an environmental benefit can arise in any area of technology. Thus, as well as technologies that immediately spring to mind when the word 'green' is mentioned (eg, wind or solar power), the technologies which can benefit from the Green Channel include processes which produce less waste or use recycled streams, devices which work more efficiently and materials which are made from recycled or environmentally friendly substances. Applicants must simply provide an explanation, which may be as long or as short as the circumstance require (eg, “it’s a solar panel”), to convince the UKIPO that there is an environmental benefit.
Who uses the Green Channel?
UKIPO statistics illustrate that the Green Channel is attractive to sole inventors, start-ups and multinational companies alike. The majority of applicants currently using the Green Channel are UK-based applicants. However, the number of foreign applicants using the Green Channel has increased in recent years.
Requesting accelerated prosecution via the Green Channel is straightforward and free. The Green Channel is open to all types of applicant and for any technology with an environmental benefit. Therefore, the Green Channel continues to provide an attractive route for applicants wishing to obtain early grant and to access the PPH.
This article first appeared in IAM. For further information please visit www.iam-media.com.