The Program Starts
In December 2009 the USPTO announced a pilot program to accelerate the examination of certain "green" technology patent applications. According to the initial press release, the intent of the program was to
"accelerate the development and deployment of green technology, create green jobs, and promote U.S. competitiveness in this vital sector."
Applications meeting program requirements received expedited examination, which according to USPTO, would reduce the average pendency of those applications by about a year. The press release stated that
"[t]he average pendency time for applications in green technology areas is approximately 30 months to a first office action and 40 months to a final decision. Under the pilot program, for the first 3,000 applications related to green technologies in which a proper petition is filed, the agency will examine the applications on an accelerated basis."
The program was formally established via a notice published in the Federal Register (74 FR 64666; December 8, 2009). For an application to be eligible for the Green Technology Pilot Program, it needed to
"materially enhance the quality of the environment under the conditions specified in item V of MPEP § 708.02"
And be classified under specific USPC classifications in one of the following major categories:
- Alternative Energy Production
- Energy Conservation
- Environmentally Friendly Farming
- Environmental Purification, Protection, or Remediation
The initial Federal Register Notice (74 FR 64666) included key program requirements:
|The application must be a non-reissue, non-provisional utility application filed under 35 U.S.C. 111(a), or an international application that has entered the national stage in compliance with 35 U.S.C. 371, regardless of the filing date of the application. Reexamination proceedings are excluded from this pilot program.|
|The application must contain three (3) or fewer independent claims and twenty (20) or fewer total claims.|
|For applications that contain more than three independent claims, twenty total claims, or multiple dependent claims, applicants must file a preliminary amendment in compliance with 37 CFR 1.121 to remove the excess claims or the multiple dependent claims at the time the petition to make special is filed.|
The claims must be directed to a single invention that materially enhances the quality of the environment, or that materially contributes to the discovery or development of renewable energy resources, the more efficient utilization and conservation of energy resources, or green house gas emission reduction.
The petition must include a statement that, if the USPTO determines that the claims are directed to multiple inventions in a restriction requirement, applicant will agree to make an election without traverse in a telephonic interview, and elect an invention that meets the eligibility requirements in section II or III of the notice (i) cited above.
The petition to make special must be timely filed electronically using the USPTO electronic filing system, EFS-Web.
The petition to make special must be filed at least one day prior to the date that a first Office action (which may be an Office action containing only a restriction requirement) appears in the Patent Application Information Retrieval (PAIR) system.
Classification Requirement Eliminated
A subsequent Federal Register Notice (75 FR 28554) eliminated the classification requirement. USPTO stated that
"the pilot program was limited to only applications classified in a number of U.S. classifications to assist the USPTO to balance the workload and gauge resources needed for the program. The USPTO has determined that the classification requirement is unnecessary because the workload has been balanced with other mechanism[s], and this requirement was causing the denial of petitions for applications that are drawn to green technologies."
Program Extended Through December 2011
On November 10, 2010, USPTO expanded
"the eligibility for the pilot program to include unexamined non-reissue non-provisional utility applications filed on or after December 8, 2009. The USPTO ... also extend[ed] the pilot program through December 31, 2011. Specifically, the Green Technology Pilot Program will run until 3,000 petitions have been granted (as set forth in the Green Technology Notice) or until December 31, 2011, whichever occurs earlier."
They also raised the possibility that the program might again be extended.
Total Applications Increased to 3,500
The extension referred to in USPTO’s November 10, 2010 notice was set forth in a December 15, 2011 Federal Register notice (76 FR 77979), which extended the program until 500 additional applications were accorded special status or until March 30, 2012, whichever occurred earlier. Following the expiration of this extension, the program was to be eliminated, and applicants instead could use the newly enacted Prioritized Examination (Track I) program.
On or around February 15, 2012, the home page for USPTO's Green Technology Pilot Program was revised to include a notice that the Program had been closed to further applications.