As we announced earlier this year in a previous alert, the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) launched the Green Technology Pilot Program to accelerate examination of patent applications pertaining to “green” technologies, including energy conservation, renewable energy development and greenhouse gas emission reduction. Patent applications that qualify for the Pilot Program advance out of turn from the USPTO’s substantial backlog of pending patent applications.

Over the last year, the USPTO increased the number of patent applications that are eligible to participate in the Pilot Program by removing certain restrictions on the Pilot Program, as summarized below.

  • Originally, the Pilot Program was limited to patent applications that the USPTO had classified in certain approved technology categories. In May 2010, the USPTO removed this restriction, so patent applications pertaining more generally to the “green” technologies identified above are eligible to participate in the Pilot Program, regardless of their assigned technology categories.
  • Also originally, the Pilot Program was limited to patent applications that were filed before December 8, 2009. The USPTO recently announced plans to remove this restriction, so patent applications filed on or after December 8, 2009 will also be eligible to participate in the Pilot Program.

In view of these new, more relaxed eligibility requirements, patent applications that were not originally eligible to participate in the Pilot Program may now be eligible.

The USPTO also plans to extend the Pilot Program until December 31, 2011. The Pilot Program was scheduled to end this year.