The Green Channel – a faster way to patent green technologies

Nicole Cordy

The Green Channel a faster way to patent green technologies

From the plastic bag tax to global warming, electric cars and pollution, environmental issues affect our lives on a daily basis. As consumers, we’re becoming increasingly aware of the impact our purchase decisions have on the environment. There is now a growing demand for ethical and sustainable products in almost every sector, which is fuelling a competitive market for so-called ‘green technology’ innovations.

Thankfully, there’s a way for patent applications for green technologies to be fast-tracked — meaning that sustainable innovations can benefit the environment much more quickly.

What is the UKIPO ‘Green Channel’ Program?

In May 2009, the UK patent office (UKIPO) introduced the ‘Green Channel’ scheme, which enables applicants to request accelerated processing of their UK patent application if the invention provides an environmental benefit.

Specifically, the Green Channel allows applicants to accelerate the search, examination and/or publication of their patent application. There is no official fee incurred by filing the request.

Why would you want to apply?

Without acceleration, it can take a number of years to obtain a granted patent in the UK. Speeding up the prosecution of Green Channel applications can progress the application to grant faster, helping to secure vital backing from investors and bring the new invention to market sooner.

A possible disadvantage to participating in the scheme is that it will bring costs forward. Applicants should also consider carefully whether they wish to request early publication, as this can make competitors aware of the invention earlier and give them more time to produce rival products which design around the patent protection.

What types of invention are eligible?

The scheme is open to any invention that is environmentally friendly. The applicant (or their patent attorney) must indicate in writing why the application meets this criteria.

The UKIPO keeps a database of all published applications and granted patents which are accepted onto the scheme.

A few examples of inventions which were accepted onto the Green Channel are renewable energy generator systems, waste recycling systems, an apparatus for washing a nappy and an adjustable bicycle frame. This is quite an eclectic mix!

Is the scheme popular?

According to annual facts and figures published by the UKIPO, 2017 saw the highest number of Green Channel requests filed since the introduction of the scheme (see below). This is hopefully an indication of an increase in green technology innovation, rather than just an improved awareness of the scheme.

However, the indications are that many eligible patent applications are still not taking advantage of the Green Channel.

YearNo. of Green Channel requests filed
2009137
2010260
2011329
2012257
2013310
2014350
2015321
2016266
2017382

Are there similar schemes available in other countries?

The Green Channel scheme operated by the UKIPO is only for UK patent applications. However, quite a few other countries do offer fast-tracking for ‘green’ patent applications, including Australia, Israel, Japan, South Korea, Canada, Brazil and China.

The eligibility criteria for participation does differ from country to country. For example, in Japan only energy-saving and carbon-saving technologies can be accelerated.

Could your invention, UK patent application or international patent application be eligible? If you’d like more information on your options for accelerated processing, please get in touch with me.

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