The world has been attempting to find ways to become greener in recent decades, and this is now being reflected in a surge in the popularity of green patents. Patent offices throughout the world, including the Australian Patent Office (IP Australia), have begun to examine the role of patents in the development and transfer of environmentally sound technologies (EST).
IP Australia, in particular, has implemented a fast tracking system for sustainable technology patents. Ordinarily, patent applications can take over a year to process, as they are examined in the order that requests are received. Green patents, however, will be expedited to the front of the queue, which, as Richard Marles, Parliamentary Secretary for Innovation and Industry, stated in an announcement in September, may “reduce the waiting time for applications to between four and eight weeks.”
This follows a move by the UK Patent Office to enable the granting of patents within 9 months of application. The ‘cleantech’ buzz has received support in other quarters, with technology companies such as IBM, Nokia and Sony donating some of their patents to the public domain. In the last five years, Australians have filed only a small minority of the total clean coal and solar energy patents worldwide. It is hoped that this system will engender a greater focus on Research & Development in environmentally-friendly technologies. Applicants may request an expedited examination after the patent application has been filed with IP Australia. The fast-tracking procedure involves no additional fee.