In order to encourage the development of green industries and to increase the volume of green technology patents in Taiwan, on January 1 2014 the Taiwan IP Office (TIPO) added a condition for inventions relating to green tech (Condition 4) under the Accelerated Examination Programme and began accepting requests for accelerated examinations. By making such an accelerated examination request, an office action may be received approximately 70 days after the filing date, which is much shorter than the average 29-month examination period for general patent applications. More than 80% of accelerated examination requests for green-tech patent applications are made by Taiwanese applicants; thus, foreign entities interested in green tech should make use of this channel to obtain patents to strengthen their IP portfolios and protect their investments in green tech.

The emergence of green-tech industries is largely due to rapid population growth, the exhaustion of natural resources and climate change, all of which make the implementation of carbon reduction policies and mechanisms a primary concern around the world. On World IP Day each year the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) launches an activity to promote public understanding and knowledge of intellectual property. In 2009 the WIPO activity was Green Innovation. At the time, WIPO Chief Executive Officer Francis Gurry stated, “a human future missionary is employing an intellectual property system to improve innovation of technologies needed to confront the challenge of and to address the problems of climate change."

As the global green economy develops rapidly, applications of new energy-source technologies are becoming a primary driver of industry development. Demand for green-tech-related industries and their economic effectiveness has also been steadily increasing. IP offices in several countries have provided preferential measures for accelerated examination of green-tech patent applications so that such green technologies can be introduced into commercial practice as early as possible.  The United States, the United Kingdom, China, Japan and Korea have all implemented accelerated examination programmes for green-tech patent applications.

Accelerated examination for green-tech patent application has been available in Taiwan since January 1 2014 to provide a channel to facilitate the green technologies rapidly obtaining patents in Taiwan, and to help applicants to build a global patent portfolio for green tech as early as possible. Up to the end of August 2014, 82% of requests for accelerated examination of green-tech patent applications received by TIPO were filed by Taiwanese applicants. The top three types of patent requesting accelerated examination are solar energy cells, green energy electromotive vehicles and intelligent energy networks. The technical fields of green-tech patent applications seeking accelerated examination are as follows:

  • Solar energy cell (35% of green-tech acceleration requests):
    • Electrode module – 21%.
    • Thin-film material – 7%.
    • Cell structure – 3%.
    • Processing method – 3%.
  • Energy-saving electromotive vehicle (32% of green-tech acceleration requests):
    • Electric power apparatus – 14%.
    • Driving power efficiency – 10%.
    • Electric-magnetic sensing – 3%. 
    • Engine mechanism – 3%.
  • Intelligent energy network (17% of green-tech acceleration requests):
    • Power supply control – 10%.
    • Energy transmission efficiency – 3%.
    • Energy control – 3%.
  • Other technology (14% of green-tech acceleration requests):
    • LED lamp – 7%.
    • Energy-saving material – 3%.
    • Fuel cell – 3%.

The green-tech patent applications seeking accelerated examination are examined quickly by TIPO’s examiners, with an office action received only 70 days after the filing date, on average. Whether an applicant seeks accelerated examination will influence its patent portfolio in global, and thus its international competitiveness. Two examples are as follows:

  • Taiwanese patent application for “Rubbing Machine and Its Tool Pan” (March 2013) which can separate and fibrillate herb fibres by mechanical force between a pair of tool pans without using chemicals, and thus is better for the environment. The applicant received the first office action in February 2014. However, if the applicant had used the accelerated examination programme for green-tech patent applications, would have been granted sooner and the global patent portfolio strategy for this application invention would be different.
  • A Taiwanese patent application related to green building, filed in June 2011 and requesting substantive examination in January 2012, has only just received an office action. The patent uses recycled pebbles and clean gravel or sand mixed with adhesives to form a structure with jointed portions between pebbles or sand and gravel having adhesive properties, while the non-jointed portions form pores to allow water to drain. It has the advantages of protecting the environment, saving energy and reducing carbon. If the applicant had chosen to request accelerated examination for this application, it would not still be pending and it would be known when an office action is likely.

Thus, the advantages for applicants of using the accelerated examination for green-tech patent applications are as follows:

  • The 20-month examination period is shortened and patents are granted sooner;
  • The royalty years are increased as the patent is granted early; and
  • Patent rights can be exercised and others can be prohibited from using the patented technique sooner.