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What is the Fast Tracking of Green Patents?

The Need for Green IP

In 1988 Dr. James Hansen, the then Director of NASA’s Institute for Space Studies, concluded before the US Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee that global warming had become a phenomenon that would adversely affect the environment. Today, more than 30 years later, the problem of global warming is at its highest peak.

According to reports, Co2 levels hit 417 parts per million in May of 2020. Temperatures in 2021 were 1.1 degree Celsius to 1.2 degree Celsius warmer than in the late 19th century. These reports show that with every coming year, the problem of global warming is increasing and if not controlled will have devastating consequences, ones even graver than what we are seeing today.

Technology and innovation is imperative for economic growth and development. However, with the current environmental conditions the need of the hour is to focus on developing clean technology and contributing to green economic growth and development. Intellectual property law especially patents plays an important role here. Patents protect the inventiveness of the country.

Conservation of the environment and need to patent the new and novel means to protect the environment have led to development of the concept of “green patents.” The International Patent Classification developed the IPC Green Inventory which provides information on Environmentally Sound Technologies and helps in search for patent information relating to green technology.

What are Green Patents?

Green patents are a part of the Green Intellectual Property which primarily deal with developing clean technology. Article 7 of the Agreement on Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPS) talks about the benefit of intellectual property and its role in protecting the environment;

The protection and enforcement of intellectual property rights should contribute to the promotion of technological innovation and to the transfer and dissemination of technology, to the mutual advantage of producers and users of technological knowledge and in a manner conductive to social and economic welfare, and to a balance of rights and obligations.”

The need of the hour is to conserve and protect the limited non-renewable resources and develop new energy saving resources. Green IP helps achieve these objectives. It aims to develop green technology and disseminate the knowledge worldwide through collaborations and partnerships. The ultimate aim is that the entire world can shift to utilizing services and products involving green technology as quickly and efficiently as possible.

Technologies which makes use of renewable sources of energy like tidal, biomass, geothermal solar energy are granted the green patent. Green patents promote sustainable growth and development.

With the goal to promote sustainability there has been a rise in the demand for fast tracking green patents. Fast tracking allows counties to grant patent their green technologies faster. There are many questions which arise in this context.

What Is Fast Tracking Of Green Patents?

Providing energy conservation solutions and sustainable technology is part of the international policy of many countries. Green IP in particular can be patented with government aid. In order for inventions relating to green technology to be disseminated faster the procedure of fast tracking of green patents was introduced. The UK established the first program in 2009 followed by Australia, Israel, Japan, USA and Republic of Korea in same year. In 2011 Canada and in 2012 Brazil and China launched similar programs.

A patent is granted to an invention which has novelty, innovativeness and industrial applicability. Then, the patent application is published. After that publication one may opt to go for the normal examination or the fast track or expedient examination. Examination can take anywhere between 2 or 3 years before patent is granted. By fast tracking the examination, the time can be considerably reduced.  For instance in U.K average time for examination is 2/3 years and by fast tracking, one can reduce the time to mere 9 months. This indicates a reduction of 75% of time required for a patent to be granted. In Canada the period is reduced by 68% from 7.8 years to 2.5 years.

Fast Tracking Green Patent Procedures Around the World

In the UK, the inventor for expedient examination must state that the invention involve green technology which is environmental friendly and there is no need to prove such statements. No formal process or additional fee is required.

Australia too follows a similar pattern where the invention must be environmentally friendly. It allows unlimited number of claims on the patent. The patent application must relate to one invention or closely related inventions.

In South Korea, unlike Australia and UK only those inventions which have the assent of the government or have been mentioned in the government’s environmental laws can apply for the expedient examination process. Certain green technologies like renewable energy requires the financial support or accreditation from the government. All the inventors must disclose their prior art search. The process has a limited approach in Korea.

In Japan, Co2 reducing and energy saving technologies are given the expedient search option. Inventors additionally need to show a comparison between their invention and the prior art which resembles their invention the most. This would determine how different their invention is from the prior art. Japan charges per claim and thus larger claims would be more expensive.

The USA allows for fast-tracking technologies relating to environment quality, energy conservation renewable energy and so on. It also limits the number of claims that may be filed.

Canada allows patents for technology which would reduce the negative impact on the environment and help to conserve the environment. It also allows unlimited claims on patent. Only one invention or closely related inventions are governed by one patent application.

Brazil’s green patent fast-track programme focuses on transport, energy conservation, alternative energy and waste management and so on.

China’s program deals with inventions dealing in energy saving. Low carbon technology, resource saving vehicles and so on.

Stay tuned for Part II, where we look into the effects of Fast-Tracking Green Patents.

Author: Dipanwita Chakraborty, Legal Intern at PA Legal.

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