The US PTO is running its greentech accelerated examination program through December 31, 2011, or until 3,000 grantable petitions are reached. The grantable petition number now stands at 2,518 based on current PTO statistics. The PTO also recently announced that it has granted 552 greentech patents, and that at least 116 of these went to General Electric. Indeed, GE obtained patent #500.
The US PTO currently is heavily involved in implementing regulations for patent reform legislation enacted September 16, 2011. What will it do with its greentech program, and how will it find the time to decide? Many would like to know more details about how this program has progressed and who has benefited.
Last week, the House passed complex patent reform legislation, HR 1249. In considering how this might be reconciled with a Senate version passed earlier this year, PTO fee diversion is a key issue. Many in the high tech community, including cleantech and nanotech, would like to see fee diversion end so as to promote a stronger US patent system. However, another issue was noted by Erin Coe’s article in IPLaw360 which links to the PTO’s green tech accelerated examination program. Coe writes:
"Another measure only mentioned in the House bill authorizes the USPTO to grant priority examinations to technologies that are critical to the U.S. economy.
The USPTO already has a pilot program in place allowing a certain number of green technology patent applications to take priority over other patent applications, but this provision would give the USPTO director broader authority to declare other technologies important and allow those patent applications to go to the front of the line, Bloch said.
“That’s a power that could be abused and it could be controversial in the reconciliation process,” he said. “If semiconductor technologies are promoted, the pharmaceutical industry or the automobile industry may ask why their technologies are not important to American competitiveness.”"
The text of the bill at issue, section 26, is provided below:
SEC. 26. PRIORITY EXAMINATION FOR TECHNOLOGIES IMPORTANT TO AMERICAN COMPETITIVENESS.
Section 2(b)(2) of title 35, United States Code, is amended–
(1) in subparagraph (E), by striking ‘and’ after the semicolon;
(2) in subparagraph (F), by inserting ‘and’ after the semicolon; and
(3) by adding at the end the following:
‘(G) may, subject to any conditions prescribed by the Director and at the request of the patent applicant, provide for prioritization of examination of applications for products, processes, or technologies that are important to the national economy or national competitiveness without recovering the aggregate extra cost of providing such prioritization, notwithstanding section 41 or any other provision of law;’.