Greentech gets the green light: accelerating patent applications towards grant
Following the UK Intellectual Property Office’s (UKIPO’s) recent release of official patent statistics for 2022, which includes a report on the increasing popularity of the Green Channel for patent applications, this article explores the options available to applicants wishing to accelerate processing of their green and eco-friendly inventions both in the UK and elsewhere.
In the UK the Green Channel allows applicants to request accelerated processing of their patent application if the invention to which it relates has an environmental benefit. This service is free of charge and, according to the UKIPO, is available to patent applicants who make a “reasonable assertion” as to the environmental benefit of their invention. While obvious examples such as solar panel and wind turbine inventions would likely meet this threshold, in some cases explanation may be required to justify the environmental benefit provided.
Examples of recently accepted reasons include:
- reducing use of environmentally-damaging materials (for example, single-use plastics);
- reducing water usage;
- using less raw material;
- reducing the number and duration of read and write operations associated with data processing, thus leading to reduced energy consumption; and
- reducing the volume of waste sent to landfill by providing a product with increased lifespan.
Requests for the Green Channel must be made in writing at the time of filing the application or later, and indicate:
- how the invention of the patent application is environmentally-friendly; and
- which actions are to be accelerated from search, examination, combined search and examination, and/or publication.
- In 2022 the UKIPO received a record number of Green Channel requests, up 9.3% from 2021, which had set the previous record.
Climate Change Mitigation Pilot Program
A comparable scheme is available in the USA where the recently launched Climate Change Mitigation Pilot Program (which replaces the previously available Green Technology Pilot Program) allows applicants to request expedited processing of the first office action for applications with an environmental benefit. To take advantage of the Climate Change Mitigation Pilot Program a request should be filed with the filing of the application or entry into the US national phase (or within 30 days of doing so) and the application should relate to a product or process that mitigates climate change by:
- removing greenhouse gases already present in the atmosphere;
- reducing and/or preventing additional greenhouse gas emissions; and/or
- monitoring, tracking, and/or verifying greenhouse gas emission reductions.
Accelerated processing of environmentally beneficial application is also available in China, with the China National Intellectual Property Administration (CNIPA) providing accelerated examination for applications relating to energy saving, environmental protection, and new energy, along with several other fast-moving technology areas. Where the CNIPA approves this prioritised examination it will aim to issue the first office action within 45 days and have the case closed within a year. To achieve this, it should be noted that the time limit for responding to an office action from the CNIPA is reduced to two months.
In Japan accelerated examination is available for green technology related applications, such as inventions having an energy-saving effect or that contribute to CO2 reduction. To take advantage of this accelerated examination, a written request can be filed with explanation describing the eligibility of the application for the programme.
Many other jurisdictions offer systems for accelerating processing of green and eco-friendly inventions, so if you have an invention in one of these areas it is worth considering whether you can take advantage of the opportunities.
It should also be appreciated that many patent offices offer schemes for accelerating prosecution for inventions that are not environmentally related. These schemes may therefore be used even where no dedicated green channel is provided, or where your invention does not meet a scheme’s eligibility requirements.
Should you wish to discuss the options available for accelerating processing of your green invention, please get in touch with your usual D Young and Co representative.
“Facts and figures: patents, trade marks, designs and hearings: 2022”, UKIPO, 28 July 2023: dycip.com/ukipo-patentstatistics-2022