The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) continues to offer the Green Technology Pilot Program, which provides free expedited processing for utility patent applications that claim “green” technology. Qualifying technology includes inventions that:
- improve environmental quality;
- increase energy conservation;
- assist in the development of renewable energy resources;
- reduce greenhouse gas emissions;
- provide some other benefit to the environment.
Qualifying applications can save anywhere from a few months to a year off standard examination times. Expedited examination is available for new and pending applications. This pilot program was previously available only to applications filed prior to December 8, 2009, but that cut-off date has been removed and the end-date of the pilot extended to December 31, 2011 (or 3,000 approved petitions, whichever comes first). Whether the program is extended past the end of 2011 is currently unknown. As of this writing, 1,595 petitions have been granted—approximately one-half of submissions.
If an applicant thinks that an invention might qualify as green under the USPTO’s requirements, he or she can visit http://www.legalzoom.com/patents-green-tech-program.html to download all the materials needed to petition for expedited examination under this program. The only cost to an applicant filing a petition under the program is payment of the publication fee ($300) upfront to enable early publication. If an application is finally allowed, this fee becomes due in any case—so for allowed applications there is no added cost at all.