A ‘green channel’ that could speed up patent protection for clean-tech inventions has a number of potential pitfalls, according to patent specialist Withers & Rogers.
The channel was launched in May by the UK Intellectual Property Office (IPO) and is part of a government effort to tackle climate change. The scheme aims to fast-track patent applications for environmentally friendly inventions and represents an expansion of the existing set of rules that can be used to request accelerated consideration. Prior to its launch, applicants had to argue that a patent had to be granted quickly as a result of a potential infringement in the
Speaking of the initiative, Dave Croston, patent attorney at Withers & Rogers, said: ‘The introduction of the “green channel” is a positive move that will support R&D [research-and-development] activity in dynamic sectors such as clean-tech industries.
‘However, it is not yet clear where the IPO will draw the line. It is uncertain whether all companies who are investing in the development of products that are greener than their predecessors will be able to benefit from a faster route to patent protection.’
Based on the IPO’s rules, applicants must make a reasonable case that there is ‘some environmental benefit’ associated with the invention. However, Croston claims that this criteria can be applied to a wide range of inventions and may not always be beneficial for a company to choose to fast-track its patent application.
‘Using the “green channel”, the UK IPO suggests it is possible that a patent can be granted in as little as nine months, which would require putting the invention in the public domain much more quickly than it would usually,’ he said.
‘This may not always be preferable and the company should consider the implications if they need to protect any subsequent developments made to the invention within 12 months of filing the first application or simply wish to keep competitors in the dark for as long as possible. Accelerated granted protection is an option, although for some it may be beneficial to keep an application pending for longer.’