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October 22, 2010

USPTO Expands Green Technology Pilot Program

The ACTA Group

On October 20, 2010, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) announced that it is seeking comment on its expansion of the Green Technology Pilot Program. 75 Fed. Reg. 64692. USPTO implemented the Pilot Program on December 8, 2009, permitting patent applications pertaining to green technologies, including greenhouse gas reduction, to be advanced out of turn for examination and reviewed earlier. USPTO intends the Program to promote the development of green technologies, which could include technologies based on nanotechnology. USPTO initially limited participation to applications filed before December 8, 2009, but is now expanding the Pilot Program to include applications filed on or after December 8, 2009, and extending the Program until December 31, 2011. USPTO states that these changes will permit more applications to qualify for the Program, thereby allowing more inventions related to green technologies to be advanced out of turn for examination and reviewed earlier. Applicants may participate in the Green Technology Pilot Program without meeting the current requirements of the accelerated examination program (e.g., examination support document). Comments are due December 20, 2010. More information on the Pilot Program is available online.

USPTO is seeking comments on the following questions:

  1. Whether the proposed collection of information is necessary for the proper performance of the functions of the USPTO, including whether the information shall have practical utility;
  2. The accuracy of USPTO’s estimate of the burden (including hours and cost) of the proposed collection of information;
  3. Ways to enhance the quality, utility, and clarity of the information to be collected; and
  4. Ways to minimize the burden of the collection of information on respondents, e.g., the use of automated collection techniques or other forms of information technology.

When USPTO first implemented the Pilot Program, it was limited to applications pertaining to environmental quality, energy conservation, development of renewable energy resources, and greenhouse gas emission reduction. USPTO limited the Pilot Program to assist it in balancing the workload and gauging the resources needed for the Program. On May 21, 2010, USPTO announced that it had determined that the classification requirement was unnecessary because the workload was balanced with other mechanisms, and the requirement was causing the denial of petitions for applications that are drawn to green technologies. With the removal of the classification requirement, and the recent expansion and extension of the Program, developers of green technologies, including those involving nanotechnology, should take advantage of the Pilot Program, and seek earlier review of their applications. As of October 4, 2010, USPTO has granted 764 petitions, and 56 petitions are awaiting decisions.