USPTO Launches Pilot Program to Fast-Track Technologies that Mitigate Climate Change

June 9, 2022
By Matthew Graff and Justin Philpott

On June 3, 2022, the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) launched the Climate Change Mitigation Pilot Program to accelerate the examination of patent applications for innovations that reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The program is part of the USPTO’s ongoing effort to encourage research, development and innovation in the climate space while also providing ready and equitable intellectual property protection to incentivize investment.

Patent applications accepted into the program are advanced out of turn, resulting in accelerated review by a USPTO Examiner. The fee normally required for filing a petition has been waived, and there is no additional government fee associated with obtaining expedited examination. The program will accept petitions until June 5, 2023, or the date that the USPTO a total of 1,000 grantable petitions, whichever comes first.

To qualify, applicants must complete a petition form that certifies:

  1. the claim(s) of the application cover(s) a product or process that mitigates climate change;
  2. the product or process is designed to reduce greenhouse gas emissions; and
  3. the applicant has a good faith belief that expediting patent examination of the application will likely have a positive impact on the climate.

Applicants must file the petition with the application or within 30 days of the filing date, and there are some additional requirements related to the filing, type, and content of qualifying applications.

If the petition is granted, the application will be accorded special status and placed on the Examiner’s special docket. Applicants can then expect to receive a first Office Action within a few months from filing, which is substantially quicker than is the case in the general examination queue. After the first Office Action, the application returns to the Examiner’s regular docket.

The Climate Change Mitigation Pilot Program can be a strategic first step in an applicant’s global patent prosecution strategy. Other Patent Offices can be strongly influenced by the results of examination at the USPTO. With an early allowance in hand from the USPTO, applicants can take advantage of the various Patent Prosecution Highway (PPH) programs to achieve expedited examination elsewhere.

For more than a decade, the Canadian Intellectual Property Office (CIPO) has offered a similar green technology initiative. Like the new USPTO counterpart, the CIPO program does not require a government fee, and the positive results of examination can be leveraged to expedite examination in other countries. However, the scope of the Canadian program is perhaps broader, as it covers applications relating to “a technology which, upon commercialization, would help to resolve or mitigate environmental impacts or that helps conserve natural resources”[1]. The USPTO program is targeted squarely at the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.

For more information, please contact a member of our Cleantech practice group.

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