The USPTO announced on Monday that it would begin a pilot program to accellerate the examination of patent applications for “green” technologies. According to the USPTO “The new initiative, coming days before the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen, Denmark, will accelerate the development and deployment of green technology, create green jobs, and promote U.S. competitiveness in this vital sector.”
If all goes well, the average time it takes to patent a qualifying “green” technology will be reduced by about a year. That may not sound like much, but imagine what one-year head start in the market could mean for consumer technologies like automobiles.
What types of technologies will qualify for expedited treatment? You can find the full list of eligible classfications in the Federal Register. Some notable entries include: human-powered vehicles, hybrid-powered vehicles, wind-powered ships, alternative irrigation techniques, and water conservation systems. Although the list of classifications is suprisingly detailed, with so much at stake, you can be assured that this is a question that will be the soon be the subject of litigation.
Did you know: This move — providing regulatory incentives to entice the industry to focus research and development — is not without precedent. Back in 1997, Congress enacted a law that provided marketing incentives — specifically 6 months of marketing exclusivity — to drug manufacturers who conduct studies of drugs in children. This law, commonly known as the pediatric exclusivity provision, was part of the Food and Drug Modernization Act. Congress felt that incentives were needed to produce safe and effective pediatric drugs because pharmaceutical firms were reluctant to perform clinical trials on children because the pediatric market is often small relative to the adult market as well as the difficulty of obtaining informed consent for pediatric testing.
Is it working? Well, the answer to that question depends on what you think of the 172 drugs that have been granted exclusivity under this program.