In an effort to accelerate the development and deployment of green technology, create more jobs, and promote U.S. competitiveness in this market, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office ("USPTO") recently introduced the Green Technology Pilot Program ("Program") to accelerate the examination of "green" technology patent applications.1 This is the second major new initiative introduced by newly appointed Director Kappos that is aimed at expediting what he believes are important inventions through the application process.2
Under normal USPTO procedures, new patent applications are taken up for examination in the order in which they are filed, with the average pendency for applications in these fields being approximately two and a half years to a first Office Action.3 Applications that qualify for acceleration under the Program, however, will be placed on a special fast track, which will likely result in applications seeing their first Office Action in approximately 16 months. Under the announced Program, the USPTO has most notably eliminated the requirement of filing an "examination support document,"4 thereby perhaps greatly increasing the incentive for applicants to participate in the acceleration process. Clearly, this is a tremendous commitment by the USPTO to ensure that critical, environmentally-friendly inventions find their way to the marketplace promptly.
To qualify under the Program, the applicant must be one of the first 3,000 applicants to file a petition with the USPTO claiming that their application meets all the requirements under the Program. In order to participate under the Program, the application must be:
- a non-reissue, non-provisional utility application filed prior to December 8, 2009;
- classified in one of the following classifications: (a) Alternative Energy Production, (b) Energy Conservation, (c) Environmentally Friendly Farming, (d) Environmental Purification, Protection, or Remediation;
- in compliance with claim requirements;5
- directed to a single invention6 and have claims that materially enhance the quality of the environment, or that materially contribute to: (a) the discovery or development of renewable energy resources, (b) the more efficient utilization and conservation of energy resources, or (c) greenhouse gas emission reduction;7
- filed electronically;
- filed prior to issuance of a first Office Action; and
- accompanied by a request for early publication.
The USPTO estimates that approximately 25,000 of the currently pending patent applications meet the requirements listed above. As the Program is limited to the first 3,000 that apply, it is imperative for applicants to decide quickly. Applicants should carefully weigh the Program's benefits against the requirements noted above; most notably, claim limitations, abbreviated restriction practice, and early publication.