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Green Tech and IP strategies

Green Patent Countries – Which geographic market?
Many national intellectual property offices around the world have initiated accelerated examination programs for green patent applications to reduce the time necessary for green tech patent applicants to obtain issued patents.  Under these programs, the time needed to obtain a patent can be significantly reduced – from several years to just a few months. The leading countries in patenting green technologies are for example US, Germany, Austria, Japan, South Korea and Brazil. The growth of the green patenting sector in recent years has been high. The first program was established by the UK in May 2009.

Australia, Israel, Japan, the Republic of Korea (ROK) and the US followed in the same year. More recently, Canada (in March 2011) and Brazil and China (in 2012) launched similar programs. In Australia, Canada and the UK, all environmentally-friendly inventions are eligible. The applicant has to explain why the invention is environmental friendly. Brazil, China and Japan have restrictions on the technologies. In Japan only energy-saving and carbon-saving technologies are allowed. Brazil is a country developing its industry and the National Institute of Industrial Property (INPI) in Brazil has launched a program to minimize the time needed for granting a green patent. INPI defines the clean tech technologies in green energy, transportation, waste management, energy conservation, and agriculture.

The European Patent Office (EPO) does not have a fast-tracking programme for green patent applications. However, the EPO has an accelerated examination procedure that is open to all patent applications. In the USA accelerated examination options are applicable to all technologies including green patents. These are the Prioritized Examination Program, the Patent Prosecution Highway, the Accelerated Examination Program and a petition based on the applicant’s age or health. The main technologies requesting accelerated examination are wind power in the US and carbon capture and storage in Australia and Canada. Other environmental technologies – such as recycling or pollution control technologies – represent around 20% of patent applications, except in Israel where 30% of patent applications cover water-saving technologies.

Example of industry
Climate change-related technologies, and in particular renewable energy technologies, represent the vast majority of patents in the fast-tracking programmes.  For example, within the air transport industry attention is drawn to growing public concern about the environmental issues of air pollution, noise and climate change. The current Clean Sky project, a Public Private Partnership between the European Commission and the Aeronautical Industry, has been set up to bring significant step changes regarding the environmental impact of aviation. Patenting green technologies within the Aeronautical Industry can be one way to market a company as being “green”.

Green Tech Patenting Values
Some large companies have even developed this marketing aspect and have established a reputation as the leaders in the green technology sectors, by filing green patent applications under a selected examination program. Adding value:

A green fast-track examination process could offer several advantages, such as
-Securing of commercial partnerships
-Making it easier to raise private capital
-Facilitating licensing matters
-Creating goodwill
-Faster enforcement of granted rights against infringers

Future Programs
A future step could be a standardized green technology fast-track examination process instead of the national accelerated examination programs for green patent applications. Such a global and harmonized system would provide a single set of rules that would apply to all IP offices offering expedited examination for green patent applications.

Alternative ways for reaching a “Green” IP strategy
In case he wants to delay a publication of a green patent application, he just adapts the patent application to the normal procedure. However, it is crucial that he files the patent application with the patent office as soon as possible to avoid novelty-destroying prior art, even though this will have the consequence of earlier publication and earlier date of grant.

Such delay of the grant of patents is often desirable. This explains why just a part of the green inventions are submitted to the green tech fast-track programs. Once a patent application has been filed, an eventual infringer can anyway always be opposed on the basis of the publication date. Most green applicants therefore often use traditional procedures and thus have an incentive to wait until the examination is conducted. The list of advantages using the traditional procedure can be made longer.

Alternative way for start-up Green Tech Company
A further important advantage of a long examination period is that it delays the costs associated with the grant of the patent. It also gives patent applicants time to determine whether the patent will be commercially viable before requesting the grant in the first place. The example shown above illustrates one way to approach a “green” patent protection, but is preferably combined with added IP protection, such as design and trademark. A delayed examination also allows applicants to adjust the green patent application during the examination process so that the scope of protection follows the actually developed inventive solution matching the final version of the invention.

It can be a quite complex procedure to apply for a “green” patent and hard to understand and satisfy a disparate set of expedited examination program rules. The ZACCO Green Tech Group will help you with this adapting your IP-strategy to the present systems. However, we believe that a standardized, global system of green technology fast-track requirements would be a major boost to participation in such program. A harmonized system for green patent applications would provide a single set of rules that would apply to all IP offices. A balanced system would couple eligibility requirements with reasonable restrictions in process for maintaining sufficiently high-speed procedure. We will follow this development. We notice that the “fast-track” green patents are of higher commercial value than other green patents applied for at the same time not requesting “fast-track” examination. A patent licensing business model can be commercially successful for a clean tech start-up by using present programs depending upon actual market. The ZACCO Green Tech Group believes that well managed IP strategies promote the implementation of green technologies in international business transactions, particularly in emerging markets, such as India and China.