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US Patent Office loosens rules for green tech

After a slow start, the USPTO tweaks an accelerated green-tech patent program to attract more inventors and patent applications.

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office is trying to cast a wider net to catch more green-technology inventions.

The USPTO announced that it has changed the patent application process to attract more green technologies into an accelerated patent program.

The Green Technology Pilot program was created last December to encourage more inventors to apply for patents relating to green technology. If accepted, those patent petitions will get priority screening under the one-year trial program.

Last week, the USPTO eliminated the need for green technology patent applications to comply with the classifications specified by the USPTO. The classifications requirement narrowed the definition of green technology more than is necessary, it found.

"This will permit more applications to qualify for the pilot program, thereby allowing more inventions related to green technologies to be advanced out of turn for examination and reviewed earlier," said David Kappos, undersecretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and director of the USPTO, in a filing in the Federal Register.

The initial target was to have 3,000 patent petitions examined in the first year, with a goal of dramatically cutting down on the average review process of 30 months.

So far, there have been a total of 950 requests with only 342 request for accelerated review granted.

The green technology program is designed to encourage development of businesses with products that reduce use of fossil fuels and protect the environment. It's not yet clear how much commercial impact the expedited review process will have, experts told Scientific American earlier this month.

Often, green-tech products are incremental improvements on existing techniques from multiple fields, many of which are patented, they said. Still, accelerated examination of an invention could help entrepreneurs incubate green-tech companies faster.

According to a notice from the USPTO, inventions are eligible for the program if they include discoveries related to renewable energy, more efficient use of energy resources, or reduction of greenhouse gas emissions.

This article was first published as a blog post on CNET News.