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The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office announced Monday a new pilot program fast-tracking the review of green technology patents.
Starting Tuesday, the office will expedite examinations of proposed technology focused on the environment, renewable energy and reducing greenhouse gas emissions.
The fast-tracking is expected to shave off one year from the patent-review process. Currently, it takes the patent office an average of 40 months to reach a final decision on green tech patents.
"Every day an important green tech innovation is hindered from coming to market is another day we harm our planet and another day lost in creating green businesses and green jobs," patent office director David Kappos said Monday.
The pilot program will target the first 3,000 patent applications already on file whose holders apply for the special status; it may be expanded later. To be eligible for the expedited review, the patents must "materially contribute" to environmental quality, discovering or developing renewable energy resources, improving energy efficiency or reducing greenhouse gas emissions, a spokesman for Kappos said.
The program is cost-neutral, but the patent office faces a budget shortfall of more than $200 million and hasn't been able to hire new examiners this year.
Still, the office said the 3,000 fast-tracked patents shouldn't significantly delay the review of other applications.
"Given the number of [green tech] applications as a percentage of the total, we do not think it will have an adverse impact on the backlog, but we intend to monitor the program and evaluate its effectiveness," the Kappos spokesman said.
There are currently more than 770,000 patent applications awaiting review.
Carl Horton, chief intellectual property counsel of General Electric Co. (GE), praised the program.
"We hail this initiative as an excellent incentive to fuel further innovation of clean technology," Horton said in a statement.
-By Kristina Peterson, Dow Jones Newswires; 202-862-6619; firstname.lastname@example.org