USPTO Expanding Fast-Track Program for Cleantech Patents
By Victor Krichker and Benjamin Todd
On June 6, 2023, the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) expanded its Climate Change Mitigation Pilot Program (“Program”) to broaden the scope of eligible subject matter and to reduce restrictions on repeat users. The Program has also been extended until the earlier of June 7, 2027, and the date on which USPTO accepts 4,000 patent applications under the Program.
The USPTO first introduced the Program on June 3, 2022, in an effort to promote climate-friendly research and development. The initial phase of the Program was focused on accelerating the examination of patent applications directed to innovations that reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Qualifying patent applications were eligible for expedited examination without additional fees and without some of the procedural requirements associated with other expedited examination options. Entry into the Program was capped at 4 applications for each inventor or co-inventor.
With this expansion of the Program, the USPTO has acknowledged that, in addition to emission reductions, emission prevention and monitoring technologies will be necessary to achieve net-zero emissions by the year 2050. Patent applications directed toward this broader range of climate mitigation innovations are now eligible for this Program. Additionally, to increase access, the maximum number of applications that can be submitted into the Program that share a named inventor or joint inventor has been raised from 4 to 12.
To qualify, applicants must complete a petition form within 30 days of filing the application that certifies:
- the claim(s) of the patent application cover(s) a product or process that mitigates climate change;
- the product or process is designed to:
- remove greenhouse gases already present in the atmosphere;
- reduce and/or prevent additional greenhouse gas emissions; and/or
- monitor, track and/or verify greenhouse gas emission reductions;
- the applicant has a good faith belief that expediting patent examination of the application will likely have a positive impact on the climate; and
- that the inventor or joint inventor has not been named as the inventor or joint inventor on more than 12 other non-provisional applications which have petitioned under the program.
The Canadian Intellectual Property Office (CIPO) has offered a similar green technology initiative for more than a decade. These types of programs that offer expedited examination without the expense of additional government fees or legal fees associated with meeting onerous procedural requirements can be very valuable for cleantech startups. Without these programs, the time to obtain a granted patent can stretch into multiple years. Long delays can adversely affect startups, in particular, because their ability to raise money and secure commercial opportunities may depend on obtaining granted patents for their technology. This expansion of the USPTO Program is good news for innovative cleantech companies.
For more information, please contact a member of our Cleantech practice group.