Patent Office puts green tech on fast track

The U.S. agency will accelerate review of green technology patent requests in an effort to perk up economic development in the nascent industry.

Patent requests related to green technology will get the equivalent of the carpool lane at the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

The patent office on Monday introduced a pilot program to accelerate the reviews of green technology-related patents. The goal is to shave as much as one year off the process, which now takes on average of 30 months for an initial action from the USPTO and 40 months for a final decision.

The first 3,000 patent petitions to be filed will be eligible for the sped-up review program, and about 25,000 already pending applications are eligible, said Undersecretary of Commerce David Kappos, according to GreenWire.

The announcement, made by Commerce Secretary Gary Locke and Energy Secretary Steven Chu, was timed to coincide with the COP15 international climate treaty talks going on this week in Copenhagen, Denmark.

Also on Monday, the Department of Energy announced that $100 million is available in ARPA-E energy technology research grants. And the Environmental Protection Agency issued its finding that greenhouse gases endanger public health and can be regulated by the EPA.

The move to fast-track patent petitions also reflects how politicians are increasingly emphasizing the economic importance of investing in green technologies, rather than only the environmental rationale.

"American competitiveness depends on innovation and innovation depends on creative Americans developing new technology," Locke said in a statement. "Every day an important green tech innovation is hindered from coming to market is another day we harm our planet and another day lost in creating green businesses and green jobs."

The question of intellectual property in clean energy technologies is an important topic of negotiation in Copenhagen. Developing countries are seeking access to green technologies on favorable terms to accelerate their transition to a cleaner energy system.