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Patent Office extends green-tech fast lane one year

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office renews the expedited review process for green technology patent applications for another year to invite more participation.

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has extended an accelerated patent review process for green technologies one more year after getting fewer applications than expected.

The USPTO today announced that the program, which was launched last December, will be extended until December 31, 2011. Also, patent applications made before December 8, 2009, can now be submitted.

The changes are meant to move more green tech-related applications to the head of the line and to get patent assessors to examine them relatively quickly. Any technology pertaining to "environmental quality, energy conservation, development of renewable energy resources, and greenhouse gas emission reductions" is eligible.

The USPTO initially set a cap of 3,000 applications for the Green Technology Pilot. But as of last week, there were 1,595 patent applications, with 790 granted. That compares with 1,477 applications in August.

One of the companies to take advantage of the speedier review process is Skyline Solar, a concentrating solar start-up that has received two patents. Thin-film solar start-up Stion, which uses novel materials for solar cells, also participated in the program and expects to be granted patents later this year, the company's patent lawyer told Bloomberg.

One of the problems with the expedited review process is that it requires about twice the normal paperwork, according to one solar entrepreneur who commented on a previous CNET article.

In addition to extending the time period for patent applications, the USPTO earlier this year loosened the definition of what qualifies for the program. The USPTO said it will keep the 3,000 limit on applications.