One of the biggest challenges of the 21st century is how to combat climate change and its global impact. Innovation in ‘green technologies’ is central to finding the solutions.

Patent offices around the world have recognised the importance of the relationship between the development of green technologies and patents. Because of this, a number of ‘fast tracking’ programs have been implemented to encourage the use of the patent system.

Programs for ‘fast-tracking’ green technology patents

Programs for fast-tracking of patent applications allow for accelerated or expedited examination of patent applications. These programs aim to bypass the long waiting periods experienced by some patent offices.

Programs for fast tracking of green patents programs have been initiated in various countries, such as Australia, Japan, United States, Canada, United Kingdom, Korea, Israel, Brazil and China.

Why fast track?

The motivation behind such fast track programs is to minimise any prosecution delays at the patent offices in order to:

  • Allow patent applicants to license and use their technologies earlier, increasing diffusion of the green technology into society
  • Allow early publication of the patent which also increases diffusion of the technical knowledge of the patent.

Benefits of fast tracking

While the above benefits are certainly altruistic in nature, there are additional benefits to the patent applicant. In most cases, the biggest advantage is that a fast patent grant will provide greater confidence in the technology, help to attract investors and aid in overall growth.

Disadvantages of fast tracking

It is not always in an applicant’s best interest to have a grant as soon as possible. By delaying the prosecution time, the final form of the claims is also delayed. This allows the applicant more time to determine how the invention will be embodied commercially before finalising the claim scope.

Since patent applications must be disclosed when the patent is granted, an early grant could result in the publication of the patent prior to the normal publication date. In certain circumstances, this could limit the competitive advantage associated with being able to commercially use the technology, while full details of the patent remain unpublished.

Does my technology qualify?

Each patent office has its own set of guidelines for what qualifies as ‘green technology’. Generally, the technology has an environmental benefit, such as energy or environmental quality.

In Australia, expedited examination may be requested for technologies that are environmentally friendly. A request for expedited examination must be in writing and must include reasons why the technology should be considered as green. The expected time frame for receiving an examination report (clear or adverse) is within 8 weeks from the date of the request.