On helping the environment and the USPTO Green Technology Pilot program

Early this year, I met with my grad school friends to catch up on each others’ life happenings. And what a meeting it had been as we not only talked about career, travel, politics and other mundane topics but we also came up with a project to help the environment and benefit some underprivileged kids. The idea was a spontaneous result of our animated conversation about electronic waste management, as we were curious about it and took turns asking some explanations from Flo who’s an environmental engineering expert. We were interested to learn from her about recycling electronic waste and how to properly dispose obsolete computer hardware and accessories such as floppy disks, RAMs, hard disk drives and CD-ROM drives.

Our planned project will be dealing more with household junk, specifically old appliances, used clothes, knick-knacks and other items that are not needed anymore. We aim to recycle them or sell them to interested groups and the proceeds will be used to fund the needs of underprivileged kids. It may be just a simple project but it will be our own small way of helping others and helping the environment as well.

For most industrial and information technology companies, there’s a need to do more than just comply with standard environmental safety policies. It would be even better to come up with innovations related to green technology e.g. those related to renewable energy, efficient use of energy resources, or reduction of greenhouse gas emissions. Thus to encourage more green technology inventions, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) revised their application process, loosening up rules, for their Green Technology Pilot program. Less limitation on the categories will allow more applicants to qualify for the pilot program.

In a CNET Green Tech news article U.S. Patent Office loosens rules for green tech, the USPTO eliminated the need for patent applications to comply with its previously specified green technology classifications.

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

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

The Green Technology Pilot program was created in 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.

On Friday, the patent office eliminated the need for green technology patent applications to comply with its previously specified classifications. The requirements had narrowed the definition of green technology more than is necessary, the patent office said.

“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,” David Kappos, director of the patent office, said 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 time of 30 months.

So far, there have been a total of 950 requests for accelerated review, with only 342 requests 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.
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While this is considered a positive move from the USPTO, not everybody thinks highly about it if you read the article’s comments section. According to reader doubtthat, “Patents don’t speed up innovation, they slow it down and make it more expensive for everyone.” Another reader who calls himself jlees wrote, “Possibly one reason to loosen up on the patent process is that the way it is stifles innovation and discourages innovators from bothering with trying to get a patent. They tend to decide it’s not worth the hassle. What should be a service of the government is an impediment instead.” Well, we’re keeping our fingers crossed that the revised USPTO Green Technology Pilot program would greatly benefit the environment by encouraging more green technology inventions without giving too much hassle to patent applicants.

With so many natural disasters happening lately, such as the eruption of the Eyjafjallajokull volcano in Iceland which caused worldwide air travel crisis recently, the effect of global warming can already be felt. I believe that caring for Mother Earth shouldn’t be as complicated as adhering to environmental safety standards, we can also do our part in our own homes by conserving electricity and in our communities by taking part in environmental-conservation projects.

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