Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Pilot Program Launched To Speed Green Tech Patent Applications

WASHINGTON, DC — While the inability to come to a binding agreement in Copenhagen was surely a disappointment for many, a global commitment to a transition to a low-carbon economy does by now seem inevitable. Inevitable as well will be international competition to bring to market the technologies that, primarily through private investment, will drive the new economy.

There are already troubling indicators that the United States is falling behind in the race to contribute key technologies to the low-carbon economy. A report issued recently by the Apollo Alliance stated that “China, Japan and South Korea are poised to out‐compete the United States for dominance of clean energy markets.”

In announcing a new program by the U.S. Commerce Department’s Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), which would accelerate the examination of green technology patent applications, Commerce Secretary Gary Locke said, “Today, the top 5 Internet technology companies in the world are based right here in the U.S. But of the top 30 alternative energy companies in the world, only 1 in 5 are American.”

The pilot program will accord special status to patent applications in green technologies by expediting their examination, thereby enabling inventors “to secure funding, create businesses, and bring vital green technologies into use much sooner,” according to the USPTO.

"Right now, there are about 25,000 patent applications that would be eligible to be considered under the pilot program,” Locke said. While the pilot program is limited to the examination of 3,000 of the most promising applications, it is likely to be expanded should it prove to be successful.

The patent applications that will be prioritized include those that enhance environmental quality and more efficient utilization and conservation of energy resources, discover or develop renewable energy resources, and reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, said Locke.

“In the next few years, some entrepreneur or some innovator in Europe, China or America is going to revolutionize a new light-weight battery for automobiles, a safe and affordable way to capture carbon from coal plants, or a cheap and effective way to store power from the wind and sun,” Locke said. “These discoveries will fundamentally change the way the world uses energy.”

Venture capitalists, as well as investors whose portfolios contain a commitment to sustainability, are likely to welcome the opportunities that could result, if the USPTO’s program leads to a more timely commercialization of green technologies in the U.S.

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