On December 9, 2009, the USPTO announced its Green Technology Pilot Program. The program offered accelerated examination to inventors filing patent applications for certain classes of green technology inventions identified by USPTO. The program was viewed as an extension of the Obama Administration's green technology initiatives and efforts to stimulate the economy. This goal 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.Accelerated examination is an important benefit to inventors and entities that rely on patents to protect their innovations and deliver the products and services build on them. Being able to jump the line is a significant economic benefit. Conversely, when one inventor's patent application moves to the front of the docket, there is an opportunity cost to that inventor or firm that may need to wait longer for their patent and to move their business forward. Accelerated examination programs and the public and science and technology policy that drive them are important issues in the innovation economy. USPTO noted its importance at the program's origination,
[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 ability to significantly reduce the pendency of your patent application offers both first mover advantages in getting your products to market while preventing others from doing so; and this competitive advantage is a valuable benefit.
UPSTO is a fee-based organization that collects fees from the inventors and firms that apply for and are granted patents. The Program also offered applicants accepted into the program waivers of all fees. Essentially the applications went to the front of the line without paying for usual fees for patent prosecution or the extra fees charged for USPTO's fast track accelerated examination programs. One of the issues here is who benefitted, would the applicants have paid for accelerated examination anyway and did the elimination of fees result in more or smaller inventors to apply?
The ability of USPTO to grant accelerated examination is found in Section 25 of the America Invents Act. Understanding if these types of programs work is important. So we seek to answer two important questions, did this program met its stated goal to accelerate job creation in the Green Technology sector and what was the opportunity costs to the other inventors in the queue.
A Quick Look At The Rules
The Federal Register Notice (74 FR 64666; December 8, 2009) laid out the eligibility rules for an application to be eligible for the Program, Applications needed to
materially enhance the quality of the environment…
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 program morphed over time. Originally it covered up to 3,000 new patent applications filed after the program began. Later it allowed inventors to apply to have applications already in the pipeline included in the program. Along the way the USPTO allowed inventors to apply to have applications beyond the published list of acceptable patent classes included in the program to explain why their invention met the published program goals. By the closing date February 15, 2012 for patent applications to be included in the program USPTO ultimately accepted 3,520 applications through the program close in mid-February 2012.
Five Years Later
USPTO granted 2,459 patents from the Green Tech Pilot Program through December 11, 2014. Seventy percent (70%) of the applications accepted by the program have now been granted. Way Better Patents analyzed the first 836 patents granted under the program in 2013. On the five year anniversary, we thought it was a good time to take another comprehensive look at the outcomes of the program — what were the inventions covered by the patents, who are the inventors and the titleholders who benefitted from the program, what was the pendency improvement, and where are they.
A New Series of Posts
This article begins a series of posts as we work our way through the data about the patents. Today we'll start with a few high level findings about the results of the program — the breakdown of the types of inventions and whether USPTO met its accelerated examination rules by reducing pendency. Next up is a look at Independent Inventors that participate in the program. Future posts will explore other important aspects of the program.
The analysis is organized using the Way Better Patents patentECO™ Index. The patent ECO patentECO™ Indexes framework organizes green technology inventions into domain indexes — Energy, Industry, Transportation, Air, Water, and Agriculture. The links above take you to the pages that explains what is in each group.
As we noted above, USPTO granted 2,459 patents from the Green Tech Pilot Program through December 11, 2014. Using the patentECO framework, here is the breakdown:
|Index||Count||% of Total|
Faster to Grant?
USPTO expected the accelerated examinations provided by the program would reduce overall pendency (number of months from application filing to patent grant) from about 40 months to about 28 months – a 12-month acceleration.
For patents issued through the December 2014, overall pendency averages 24.8 months. When looking at the patentECO™ domains, the highest pendency was for inventions in the Air index at 26 months to a low of 19.5 months for patents covering Water inventions. For this aspect of USPTO’s program goals, overall pendency comes in 11 percent under the target value of 24.8 months. Analysis of the first 836 patents granted under the program showed that pendency averaged 19.7 months. As the program went on the pendency went up. Early participants had their patents granted faster.
|Resource Extraction & Harvesting||20.3|
And the leading companies?
The top three organizations receiving patents via the Green Tech Pilot Program, across all patentECO™ Indexes are the General Electric Company (438 grants; 17.7% of all grants), Ford Motor Company (239 grants; 9.7% of all grants), and LG (149 grants; 6% of all grants). The top 10 organizations receiving patents thus far were awarded 1,106 grants, 45% of all patents issued.
The patents GE received under the program have an overall average pendency of 22.5 months, compared with an average 25.4 months for all other patents issued from the program; this is an 11.8% improvement. It's reasonable to explain some of this because GE has a century-plus experience in working with USPTO and the US patent system and understanding the nuances of the patent application and prosecution process. Ford and LG also rely heavily on patents to protect their innovations and their products. GE had advanced knowledge of the program being included in the announcement press release,
We hail this initiative as an excellent incentive to fuel further innovation of clean technology and a terrific mechanism to speed the dissemination of these patented technologies throughout the worldNewer and smaller inventors may not have had the benefit of the extensive experience of their large company participants. We will dig deeper into the roles of large entities, small entities, and independent inventors in future posts.