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IP Cases & Commentary – Details

1 February 2012

UK IPO Green Channel - Fast-Track Filing for Green Technology Patents

Stephanie Wroe

At the UK Intellectual Property Office (UK IPO) it can typically take two to three years after filing for the average mechanical patent application to be granted. In the biotechnology field the corresponding time to grant can often be much longer. Having a granted patent can often be crucial in the early stages of funding for many businesses.

The UK IPO helpfully provides an alternative route to expedite some applications. Specifically, applications covering technology which is considered to be ‘environmentally-friendly’ can be fast-tracked using what is called the ‘Green Channel’. The UK IPO aims to handle cases in the Green Channel such that they can be granted within a year or less from filing the fast-track request. This route offers significant benefits to companies seeking to attract new investment, customers, and licensees.

How does the Green Channel work?

The Green Channel fast-track scheme encompasses any technology that provides an environmental benefit. For example, applications may relate to wind power, solar power, energy saving devices, transportation or biofuels in any field.

In order to enter the Green Channel all that needs to be done is:

  1. file a written request for the Green Channel;
  2. provide an explanation as to why the application relates to a green technology; and
  3. state which actions are to be accelerated eg, search, combined search and examination, publication and/or examination.

There is no fee for making such a request.

Further, there is a dedicated database for applications which are undergoing the Green Channel fast-track process which is free to users and updated weekly.

The criteria for examination and the standard of examination under the Green Channel are the same as for applications which undergo normal examination channels. The only difference is that each step is handled promptly by the UK IPO.

The Green Channel fast-track procedure was introduced on 12 May 2009 and, at the time of writing, nearly 400 applications have used the Green Channel fast-track procedure.

Example case study

A Danish green-technology company exploited the UK IPO’s Green Channel to secure early patent protection in the biofuels field. The prosecution of the case through to grant was expedited thereby supporting investor negotiations for the business.

By requesting the Green Channel D Young & Co’s Biotechnology, Chemistry & Pharmaceuticals Group were able to obtain the grant of the patent within 11 months of the filing date.

The time line for this case was as follows:

  • the first Examination report issued within six weeks of making the Green Channel request;
  • the second Examination Report issued within eight weeks of responding to the first Examination Report;
  • the third Examination Report issued within six weeks of responding to the second Examination Report;
  • the letter advising that the application was in order for grant issued within four weeks of responding to the third Examination Report; and
  • the patent granted four weeks later.

“Stephanie Wroe at D Young & Co suggested and recommended to us that we use the UK Green Channel fast-track procedure for our UK national filing. Following the recommendation has resulted in a granted UK patent within only 11 months from the filing date.

We have thereby at an early stage been provided with the ultimate and best possible way to convince potential investors and customers that patent protection of our technology based on our filed PCT application is feasible worldwide and likely to be obtained in the sought countries and regions.

A serious concern by prospective stakeholders can thus be remedied immediately by showing this patent, and an otherwise time-consuming analysis may be avoided.”

Applicants who believe their technology offers some form of environmental benefit are finding the Green Channel very effective. As in the case study above, having a granted patent, even in one jurisdiction, can be very useful for the applicant in terms of securing investment as well as for investors conducting due diligence.

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