Friday, September 7, 2012

A Fresh Look at Green Technology

There hasn't been much new and interesting information on the USPTO Green Technology Pilot Program.  There was lots of hoopla when the program was announced, and a little more when it was extended and when USPTO opened up the definition of what would constitute Green Technology under the program.   There wasn't much real information about the results of the program.  Most of the information from USPTO was speeds and feeds -- how many patent applications they received, how many patents they granted, when the program would end, blah, blah, blah.

Wayfinder Digital published a Discovery and Analysis Report on the USPTO Green Technology Pilot Program that provides a fresh look at green tech innovations created under the program.  The report takes a comprehensive look at the first 800+ patents granted under the program.  It looks at the patents, the technology that was patented under the program, the assignees, the geography - where the inventions came from, and the inventors.  For patent stat folks they also looked at pendency, complexity, and which technology center handled the applications.  The report also follows the primary classifications back to the oldest patents with the same classification to take a look at some of the oldest prior art.

USPTO created the program to advance green technology and create jobs.  Wayfinder Digital looked at the patents and then looked at the Young Guns - the young companies that got patents under the program.  The Young Guns may be the most revealing part of the report.  The Kaufman Foundation, which studies entrepreneurship, notes that young companies are the engines of economic development creating a disproportionate number of new jobs and economic growth.  Looking at the Young Guns in the context of a program that was focused on economic growth and creating jobs is an important metric.

One of the things I found most compelling about the report is that it provides a timely snapshot of what happens when USPTO offers free accelerated examination (participants in the program didn't have to pay the normal fees for accelerated examination.)  The American Invents Act allows the Director of USPTO to grant certain economically important technology accelerated examination if an applicant requests it.  Here was a program that did exactly that - granted accelerated examination to technology USPTO deemed to be economically important.  The innovation researchers among us might find it an interesting examination of how a program like this might work and going forward following the patents to see if they meet the goals of the program - creating jobs and enhancing US economic competitiveness.

When you read the report here are a few things you notice.  First, USPTO published a list of classification that would qualify under the program.  As the program progressed it let inventors explain the environmental, greenhouse gas emission reduction, and other green technology benefits of the inventions without regard to what turned out to be a very restrictive list of classifications.  When you look at the inventions you will see that the program reached across inventive domains - urban wind inventions, inventions to cut back power usage from "vampire draw", new methods to recycle tires.  There are also some surprises - lots of transportation inventions but not many for electric vehicles or hybrids.

The report is an important addition to the dialog on whether accelerated examination programs really help speed innovations to the marketplace and help US economic competitiveness.   Considering the depth of the analysis it's cheap at $19.00.