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Accelerated Patent Prosecution via the Green Channel

Accelerated Patent Prosecution via the Green Channel

Industry news 02/03/2016

In 2009, the UK Intellectual Property Office (IPO) began a scheme to allow accelerated prosecution for inventions that relate to green technologies.

The so-called "Green Channel" can reduce the time to grant a typical UK patent from over three years, to less than twelve months. Green Channel applications do not incur any additional fees and the scheme can be requested at any time and for any stage of prosecution.

In order to be eligible for the Green Channel, Applicants must submit a written request demonstrating that their invention is in some way environmentally-friendly. While the green credentials of some inventions may be more obvious than others, secondary factors like improving the efficiency of a process or allowing a product to be more readily re-used may be sufficient. In practice, the IPO has only refused around one out of every one hundred requests.

There are several reasons why it might be beneficial to request accelerated prosecution via the Green Channel. Research into the scheme has highlighted a pattern of early stage companies with small revenues and fast-growing assets making strong use of the scheme, and emphasises the potential for green-technology start-ups to use granted patent rights to attract investors and raise capital.

Accelerating prosecution might also be a strategic consideration for clients involved in litigation, those wishing to pursue time critical enforcement or potentially to start the clock earlier for damages. In such cases, a narrower Green Channel application could be used in conjunction with a broader divisional progressing down the ordinary prosecution channels.

Since its launch, the Green Channel has been taken up by relatively few Applicants. Figures suggest that the number of requests account for less than 1% of total applications and around 20% of applications in green technologies. This low take up is likely caused by a lack of awareness among Applicants combined with the possible disincentives of accelerating prosecution. These may include factors such as reducing the amount of time available to assess the commercial value of an invention, causing more costs to be incurred up front and leading to earlier disclosure to competitors.

In practice, accelerated prosecution schemes like the Green Channel are likely to remain the exception rather than the rule. However, used intelligently they can add value to an IP strategy.

If you would like more information about accelerated prosecution schemes such as the Green Channel, please contact us.