The United Kingdom has launched an initiative where ‘green’ or environmentally friendly technology can be fast-tracked through the patent application process. The scheme was launched on 12 May by UK Minister for IP, David Lammy, in a bid to support inventions that may assist in combating climate change. Under the new scheme, the time for a patent application to progress to grant may be reduced from the usual two to three years to just nine months.
In announcing the initiative, the Minister stated that it offers “innovative UK businesses working in green technologies the chance to get high-quality patent rights faster than ever before. This in turn will speed up the time it takes to get products to market, benefiting both businesses and consumers.”
To enter the ‘green channel’, patent applicants will need to indicate that the application relates to a ‘green’ or environmentally friendly technology. The applicant will also need to nominate which steps in the application process they wish to have accelerated.
While the initiative may be an attractive option for a number of patent applicants, no legislative changes are required to implement it. Accelerated search and examination procedures are already available to those who can provide the UK Intellectual Property Office with a good reason why their application should be fast-tracked. Applicants can also already request combined search and examination or accelerated publication without needing to provide a reason.
If large numbers of applicants take advantage of the initiative, the scheme may result in standard ‘non-green’ applications progressing more slowly; thus encouraging patent attorneys to dress up inventions in ‘green’ language where an applicant wishes to avoid this.
The initiative is clearly founded on the perceived need for Governments to be seen as taking steps to address climate change, and the UK Intellectual Property Office is trying to encourage other countries to follow suit. While Australia is yet to fall into line with this trend, the US already has a similar scheme in place and China has agreed to adopt the proposal.