The race to patent "green" inventions in Canada is in full swing. The demand for Canadian patents relating to environmentally friendly and energy-conserving technologies is strong and is expected to rapidly increase in the next few years due to the growing market and competitive atmosphere. Diverse industries, from oil and gas to hydroelectric power, are investing in green patents.
Corporate investment. In 2010 alone, R&D in the Canadian green technology industry totaled approximately $985 million. Investments like these have led to increased patenting activity. According to a search carried out using the information on Canadian Intellectual Property Office (CIPO) website, there have been over 9,300 patents granted since the beginning of 2010 that fall into one of the IPC Green Inventory classifications (i.e., international patent classifications that relate to a green technology). This equates to an annual average of about 7.5% of all patents granted in Canada, indicating significant demand for green patents.
Moreover, the variety of these patents spans a wide spectrum of technologies, reflecting the diversity of demand. There are thousands of recently granted patents relating to fuel cells, energy extraction from waste, and traditional green technologies such as wind and solar power. Other areas, including energy conservation technologies for buildings, waste management, and even technologies relating to carbon emissions trading, are also well-represented.
Fast-tracked examination. The Canadian government has recognized the importance of green inventions and has introduced a means for applicants to speed up the patent application process for such inventions. CIPO will expedite examination of applications relating to green technologies provided the applicant files a declaration indicating that “the application relates to technology the commercialization of which would help to resolve or mitigate environmental impacts or to conserve the natural environment and resources.”
A very broad range of green technologies appears to be eligible. According to “Fast-tracking Green Patent Applications: An Empirical Analysis” (ICSTD, 2012), it takes 68% less time on average for a fast-tracked application to grant than other Canadian applications. This can lead to greater certainty and protection of one’s IP rights, which can be a significant advantage.
Looking forward. The value of green patents and patent portfolios should rapidly increase as the industry shifts focus from investment to commercialization. Already, significant transactions in the form of licensing, financing, and mergers and acquisitions (M&A) involving green IP are being struck between companies. The province of Ontario is making a “strong play to become a cleantech hub,” according to the 2012 Global Cleantech Innovation Index Report.
The green technology industry is poised for large growth in Canada, with government initiatives, tax incentives, and a vast natural resources sector (hydro, wind, forestry, mining, oil) comprising 11.5% of the nation’s GDP and employing 763,000 workers. Green innovation will play a significant part of this growth, and protecting green inventions will be more important than ever.