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    Fast-Tracking Green Patents Reduces Wait Time, Appeals To Start-Ups, Study Finds

    Published on 28 November 2012 @ 2:26 pm

    By , Intellectual Property Watch

    Several countries have established fast-track programmes to expedite the examination of environmentally oriented, or “green,” patents. Preliminary findings from a study assessing the success of those programmes were presented last week to Geneva intellectual property professionals.

    Over the last three years, seven national intellectual property offices implemented programmes to fast-track green patents. The United Kingdom was first, in May 2009 (IPW, IP Live, 14 May 2009). Other countries followed the same year: Australia, South Korea, Japan, the United States, and Israel. Canada launched its programme in 2011, Brazil and China in 2012.

    The study of their success was commissioned by the International Centre for Trade and Sustainable Development and authored by Antoine Dechezleprêtre of the Grantham Research Institute on Climate Change and the Environment at the London School of Economics and Political Science. It aims to evaluate how useful and successful those programmes have been since their launch. Fast-track programmes allow green patent applications to be examined as a matter of priority by intellectual property offices.

    The overall preliminary results of the study show that fast-track programmes are in demand. Although patent applicants may not have incentives to use these programmes, the programmes keep their promise to reduce the time to grant patents and accelerate the diffusion of technical knowledge in green technologies in the short run, said Dechezleprêtre.

    Fast-track programmes were put in place to circumvent the patent backlogs that most IP offices face, in order to have green technologies more readily available in the context of environmental challenges, such as climate change.

    One of the issues linked to fast-tracking is to determine what is a green technology, said Dechezleprêtre. Some patent offices use a list of eligible technologies, but in most, “patent applicants can just state that their patent has an environmental benefit and it is up to the patent examiner to decide whether the claim is true or not,” he said.

    One of the consequences of having a patent granted earlier is that patent applicants can licence and use their technologies sooner, which increases the diffusion of the technology, he said. If patent applicants apply for an expedited examination very early in the process that might also lead to an early publication of the patent, he added, and this could also increase the diffusion of the technological knowledge associated with the patent. Some see patenting as a barrier to the diffusion of knowledge for those who cannot afford to licence it.

    Patent Applicants Ambivalent

    The study provides an empirical analysis of data coming from the seven patent offices, Dechezleprêtre said. The number of patent applications that have requested accelerated examination is rather limited, with 43 in Australia, 220 in Japan, 67 in Canada, 776 in the United Kingdom, and 3,500 in the United States. That translates in proportion to annual green patents to less than 1 percent in Australia, 1.4 percent in Japan, 1.6 percent in Canada, 8 percent in the United States, and 20 percent in the United Kingdom. The high percentage found the UK office shows that there is interest in fast-tracking schemes, he said.

    After he interviewed IP professionals, Dechezleprêtre said he found out the main reason behind the relatively low numbers is that patent applicants have a strong incentive not to use the fast-tracking programmes in general. In particular, patent applicants face a trade-off between early filing and the publication of the patents.

    Once the patent is filed, and its protection is secured, “you really don’t want your patent to be published,” he said, because it releases information to the public and this increases the risk of imitation. “Even if the patent is published you might still want to buy time to continue research and development activities, determining what exactly the invention is going to be, and continue discussing with the patent office to determine precisely what the final claims will be in the patent,” he explained.

    Favoured by Start-Ups in Climate Change Technologies

    Patent applicants have incentives to use fast-tracking programmes in specific circumstances, he said. In particular, start-up companies may wish to licence their technology to start making revenue, or may be eager to secure a patent in order to raise capital.

    Start-up companies in the green technology business are heavy users of fast-track schemes, according to Dechezleprêtre, and are mainly domestic applicants. The majority of patent applications using the fast-track programmes are climate change related technologies, in particular renewable energy technologies.

    The study also showed that the value of patents that are fast-tracked have a higher value than patents that are not. Dechezleprêtre found that patent applicants requesting accelerated examination tend to favour patents that are of the highest commercial value in their portfolio.

    Reduced Time to Grant

    In all, the preliminary results of the study indicate that the time from application to grant, which is the major aim of fast-tracking programmes, is significantly reduced, the author said. There appeared to be an indication that fast-tracked applications are more likely to be granted.

    The earlier granting of patents also fosters technological knowledge diffusion, he said, after having considered patent citations in subsequent patents as a measure of how much the knowledge is used in subsequent inventions. Fast-track patents receive twice as many citations in the same period as other green patents, he said. However, if the early granting of patents can accelerate the technological knowledge diffusion, that might not be true in the long run, he added.

    WIPO Chief Economist Comments

    World Intellectual Property Organization Chief Economist Carsten Fink, invited to provide comments on the preliminary findings of the study, said the paper was both interesting and timely.

    Among his comments, he said that one of the issues he found in the study is the argument that many companies are not using the system is because they are afraid of disclosing information about their invention.

    According to Fink, many patent applicants are not necessarily interested in an early grant, not because they are afraid that their technology would leak to others, but rather they want to retain an option of holding onto the patent. Once a patent is filed it is not clear that applicants want an early patent grant because a grant implies additional costs, he said. Companies first want to see how the technology and the market develop, to evaluate whether the invention will be commercialised, as many patents will not have any application, he said.

    Fink also said the study should use caution in attributing patent citations to knowledge diffusion. Depending on the patent office, the citations are made by the examiners and not the applicants. It is thus not clear whether the patent applicant has considered prior patents, he said.

    The patenting of the green economy has been a sharp issue in international fora, in particular in the context of the transfer of technology. In the June Rio+20 summit, developing countries argued that intellectual property on green technologies can hinder the diffusion and the use of those technologies by countries that need them the most, unable to afford the high prices of those technologies (IPW, Environment, 18 June 2012).

    The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change is holding the 18th session of the Conference of the Parties and the 8th session of the Conference of the Parties serving as the Meeting of the Parties to the Kyoto Protocol, from 26 November-7 December in Doha, Quatar.

    IP issues are expected to be discussed in the context of the Ad Hoc Working Group on Long-term Cooperative Action under the Convention, in particular on technology transfer.

    Catherine Saez may be reached at info@ip-watch.ch.

     

    Comments

    1. Green patents benefit from ‘fast-tracking’ frameworks | Innovation Asset Group News says:

      [...] that encouraged the streamlined processing of so-called "green" patents. According to the latest research commissioned by the International Center for Trade and Sustainable Development, early returns from [...]


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    We welcome your participation in article and blog comment threads, and other discussion forums, where we encourage you to analyse and react to the content available on the Intellectual Property Watch website. By participating in discussions or reader forums, or by submitting opinion pieces or comments to articles, blogs, reviews or multimedia features, you are consenting to these rules.

    We welcome your participation in article and blog comment threads, and other discussion forums, where we encourage you to analyse and react to the content available on the Intellectual Property Watch website.

    By participating in discussions or reader forums, or by submitting opinion pieces or comments to articles, blogs, reviews or multimedia features, you are consenting to these rules.

    1. You agree that you are fully responsible for the content that you post. You will not knowingly post content that violates the copyright, trademark, patent or other intellectual property right of any third party or which you know is under a confidentiality obligation preventing its publication and that you will request removal of the same should you discover that you have violated this provision. Likewise, you may not post content that is libelous, defamatory, obscene, abusive, that violates a third party's right to privacy, that otherwise violates any applicable local, state, national or international law, that amounts to spamming or that is otherwise inappropriate. You may not post content that degrades others on the basis of gender, race, class, ethnicity, national origin, religion, sexual preference, disability or other classification. Epithets and other language intended to intimidate or to incite violence are also prohibited. Furthermore, you may not impersonate others.

    2. You understand and agree that Intellectual Property Watch is not responsible for any content posted by you or third parties. You further understand that IP Watch does not monitor the content posted. Nevertheless, IP Watch may monitor the any user-generated content as it chooses and reserves the right to remove, edit or otherwise alter content that it deems inappropriate for any reason whatever without consent nor notice. We further reserve the right, in our sole discretion, to remove a user's privilege to post content on our site. IP Watch is not in any manner endorsing the content of the discussion forums and cannot and will not vouch for its reliability or otherwise accept liability for it.

    3. By submitting any contribution to IP Watch, you warrant that your contribution is your own original work and that you have the right to make it available to IP Watch for all purposes and you agree to indemnify IP Watch, its directors, employees and agents against all damages, legal fees and others expenses that may be incurred by IP Watch as a result of your breach of warranty or of these terms.

    4. You further agree not to publish any personal information about yourself or anyone else (for example telephone number or home address). If you add a comment to a blog, be aware that your email address will be apparent.

    5. IP Watch will not be liable for any loss including but not limited to the following (whether such losses are foreseen, known or otherwise): loss of data, loss of revenue or anticipated profit, loss of business, loss of opportunity, loss of goodwill or injury to reputation, losses suffered by third parties, any indirect, consequential or exemplary damages.

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    7. You acknowledge and agree that you use and/or rely on any information obtained through the discussion forums at your own risk.

    8. For any content that you post, you hereby grant to IP Watch the royalty-free, irrevocable, perpetual, exclusive and fully sub-licensable license to use, reproduce, modify, adapt, publish, translate, create derivative works from, distribute, perform and display such content in whole or in part, world-wide and to incorporate it in other works, in any form, media or technology now known or later developed.

    9. These terms and your posts and contributions shall be governed and interpreted in accordance with the laws of Switzerland (without giving effect to conflict of laws principles thereof) and any dispute exclusively settled by the Courts of the Canton of Geneva.

     

     
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