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Patent Office Expands Expedited Reviews of ‘Green Technology’

May 21 (Bloomberg) -- The U.S. plans to expand a program that reduces by 12 months the processing time for patents on inventions intended to improve the environment.

The program is designed to fast-track as many as 3,000 applications related to technology that promotes renewable energy and conservation. The Patent and Trademark Office is broadening the criteria for participation so more applications qualify, according to a notice to be published in the Federal Register today and scheduled to take effect immediately.

Increased use of alternative energy has been a key policy issue for Barack Obama since he became president in 2009. His administration’s $787 billion stimulus plan passed last year to end the deepest recession since the Great Depression dedicates $80 billion for energy programs including efforts to expand the use of renewable fuels and reduce greenhouse-gas emissions.

The patent office is altering the expedited-review initiative because too many applications tied to clean-energy were being turned away from participation. Almost 60 percent of the 951 petitions for the expedited process were dismissed or denied partly because the patent office was using narrow categories for the program, according to the agency.

“The problem was, we had put some limitations on the program,” Jennifer Rankin-Byrne, a spokeswoman for the agency, said in an interview. “We think the response has been promising. Now we just want to make it easier for people.”

12 Months Less

The average application takes about 40 months without the fast-track review, which is designed to cut 12 months off the process. Broadening eligibility will help inventors get investment dollars and create businesses to market their products because their technology will be protected from competitors, the agency said.

Commerce Secretary Gary Locke announced the original plan in December, saying the U.S. needs to promote investment in green technologies to compete more effectively against countries including China and India.

Nine patents have been issued under the initiative, which lets applications move the top of the line for review. One patent, issued to Skyline Solar Inc., is for improved solar arrays used in the industrial, government and utility markets.

To contact the reporter on this story: Susan Decker in Washington at sdecker1@bloomberg.net.

To contact the editor responsible for this story: Larry Liebert at lliebert@bloomberg.net

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