Have you ever had a client go a little bit “Maverick and Goose” and scream “I feel the need…..the need for speed!”?
No, me neither, but sometimes a client does want to know what can be done to speed up the often painfully slow prosecution process and secure a patent grant (or at least decision) as soon as possible.
The UKIPO offers three options for speeding up prosecution of a patent application: combined search and examination (CSER); accelerated search and/or examination; and, early publication. While CSER and early publication are available on request, justification needs to be given to get accelerated search and/or examination. One reason may be that you believe there is an infringement occurring and you need an early grant to enable action to be taken.
An alternative route to requesting accelerated search and/or examination however is via the Green Channel which allows applicants to request accelerated prosecution if their invention has some kind of environmental benefit. But, how popular is this option?
A response to a recent Freedom of Information request appeared on the UKIPO website last week and sheds some light on Green Channel usage.
The Green Channel was introduced on 12 May 2009 and may be requested in respect of applications that were filed before this date as well as those filed since the system became available. In order to use the Green Channel an Applicant must request it and provide justification why the invention is environmentally friendly and which actions (search, examination, combined search and examination, and/or publication) they wish to accelerate.
According to the UKIPO FOI response there have been 969 requests since 12 May 2009 to use the Green Channel. The most requests were received in 2011/2012 (312) and the smallest number of requests were received in 2012/2013 (183). Full figures for the 2013/2014 financial year were not yet available.
The UKIPO’s Facts and Figures publication for 2012 and 2013 suggests that around 23,000 patent applications were made in total in each year which means that the percentage of patent applications entering the Green Channel process is around 1%.
The average time to grant when using the Green Channel has been 11 months though there is a downward trend in the figures provided with the average time in 2012/2013 being only 7 months! There’s a database of all the “green” applications on the UKIPO website here.
It would seem only 1% of requests to use the Green Channel have been refused (13 requests in all since the start of the programme). Unfortunately, the database no longer contains details of these cases so it’s not possible to judge why “the technology concerned has not been considered of environmental benefit”.
So, if you feel the patent system is writing checks (sic) your Examiner can’t cash and your invention has some environmental benefit then maybe it’s worth considering going Green.
Mark Richardson 1 December 2014