Two Month Warning for Patent Office’s Fast-Track Program for Clean Energy Technologies


Only two months remain to take advantage of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office's pilot program for fast-tracking examination of certain pending clean energy technology patent applications. The program is scheduled to end on December 8, 2010.

The fast-track program allowed biofuels start-up Joule Unlimited to obtain U.S. Patent No. 7,794,969 (claiming methods for using genetically-engineered algae to generate biodiesel from sunlight, carbon dioxide, and water) in just 5 months.  By contrast, patent applications that are not part of the fast-track program can take as long as 40 months to issue as patents.  

To be eligible for the program, an application must:

  • be a new, non-reissue, non-provisional utility application;
  • have been filed before December 8, 2009; and
  • have three or less independent claims, and twenty or less total claims, claiming an invention relating to an eligible clean energy technology.

Eligible clean energy technologies include inventions that materially enhance the quality of the environment, or that materially contribute to:

  • discovery or development of renewable energy resources;
  • more efficient utilization and conservation of energy resources; or
  • reduction in greenhouse gas emissions.

More details on the fast-track program and other IP strategies for clean energy innovators are available at the Patent Office's website and in the Managing IP article Plan Your Clean Energy IP Strategy.