USPTO to allow accelerated examination for “green” applications without examination support documentDecember 8, 2009

In a press release yesterday, the USPTO announced it was beggining a pilot program to permit accelerated examination of patent applications directed to "green" technologies. The announcement came on the same day that the EPA announced it considers greenhouse gases a threat to public health and the environment. The announcements came just before the start of the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change.

In a Federal Register notice today, the specifics of the program were provided in more detail. The applicable technologies include those that materially (1) enhance the quality of the environment, (2) contribute to discovery or development of renewable energy resources; (3) contribute to the more efficient utilization and conservation of energy resources; or (4) contribute to greenhouse gas emission reduction. The requirements for environmental quality enhancement applications are defined in MPEP § 708.02(V). The "renewable energy resources" include "hydroelectric, solar, wind, renewable biomass, landfill gas, ocean (including tidal, wave, current, and thermal), geothermal, and municipal solid waste, as well as the transmission, distribution, or other services directly used in providing electrical energy from these sources." Inventions that deal with more efficient utilization and conservation of energy "include inventions relating to the reduction of energy consumption in combustion systems, industrial equipment, and household appliances." Greenhouse gas reducing inventions include those "that contribute to (1) advances in nuclear power generation technology, or (2) fossil fuel power generation or industrial processes with greenhouse gas-abatement technology (e.g., inventions that significantly improve safety and reliability of such technologies)."

As to the technical requirements for the petition, they include:

  • The petition must be filed in a nonprovisional, non-reissue application that was filed on or before the date of the notice (December 8, 2009)
  • The application must be classified in one of the classes identified in the Federal Register notice
  • The application must have no more than 3 independent claims and 20 total claims, or a preliminary amendment must be filed to reduce the number of claims at or below these thresholds
  • The claims must be directed to a single invention and include a statement that if the USPTO determines that the claims are directed to multiple inventions, the applicant will agree to make an election without traverse in a telephonic interview, and elect an invention that meets the eligibility requirements
  • The claimed invention must materially enhance the quality of the environment or materially contribute to: (1) the discovery or development of renewable energy resources; (2) the more efficient utilization and conservation of energy resources; or (3) greenhouse gas emission reduction, and explain how this standard is met
  • The petition must be electronically filed on or before December 8, 2010, and at least one day before a first office action is mailed (which may be a restriction requirement)
  • The petition must include a request for early publication and the publication fee

As this is only a pilot program, only the first 3,000 applications will be elegible for accelerated examination on this basis. However, the USPTO anticipates extending the program if it is successful.

For USPTO the press release, click here. For the Federal Register notice with more details of the program and the requirements to participate, click here. USPTO Director Kappos also provides this entry on his official blog on the subject.

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