Did you know that the UKIPO offers accelerated processing for applications if the invention has an environmental benefit? This is via a scheme known as the 'Green Channel'.
What is the ‘Green Channel’?
The Green Channel for patent applications was first introduced on 12 May 2009, however, we expect it to see a revival in view of an ever-increasing amount of inventions directed towards tackling environmental issues such as climate change and sustainability. The Green Channel service allows applicants to request accelerated processing of their patent application if the invention has an 'environmental benefit'. The UKIPO doesn’t ask for any fee to provide this acceleration. The applicant must file a request in writing and include an indication of:
How their application is environmentally friendly.
Which actions they wish to accelerate: search, examination, combined search and/or publication.
Unfortunately, there is no automatic 'Green Channel' entry for particular areas of technology (e.g. renewable technologies) and the request must be filed in writing to obtain the acceleration benefit.
Am I green enough?
The 'Green Channel' is available to patent applicants who make a reasonable assertion that the invention has some environmental benefit. The UKIPO has highlighted, for example, that "if the invention is a solar panel or a wind turbine then a simple statement is likely to be enough. However, a more efficient manufacturing process which uses less energy is likely to need more explanation". From our experience, we have found that it is often simple to meet the requirements of having an 'environmental benefit', for example, by highlighting an increase in energy efficiency (which is often justified by the description of the patent application itself).
It is also interesting to note that the UKIPO has indicated that it "will not conduct any detailed investigation into these assertions, but will refuse requests if they are clearly unfounded, for example, if the application relates to a perpetual motion machine” (no surprises there!).
The UKIPO keeps a record of all applications accelerated on the 'Green Channel' database. Some recent examples of published applications accelerated via the 'Green Channel' include:
GB2589824 - A boiler control system that can achieve a fuel saving of 18%
GB2580767 - A food container with a removable section that allows contaminated packaging to be disposed of whilst the remainder of the packaging can be easily recycled.
GB2585465 - A manufactured aggregate product for use in concrete which is generated from the by-products of other industries and mixed with air pollution control residues.
As you can see from these brief examples, the range of technologies that can successfully apply for this free acceleration is very broad.
Benefits of being green
For any subject matter, whether “green” or not, the UKIPO offers accelerated processing if the applicant can provide a viable commercial reason as to why they require an accelerated search or examination. However, by using the Green Channel, you avoid having to provide a commercial reason to the UKIPO as to why your application should be prioritised for search and examination. Per the usual acceleration process, the scheme can also be combined with other informal methods of accelerating prosecution, such as requesting combined search and examination and promptly replying to communications from the UKIPO, to expedite prosecution even further.
If you are considering using the Green Channel to accelerate prosecution, then this must always be balanced against the inevitable acceleration of prosecution costs. Additionally, applicants considering the use of the Green Channel should be aware that all applications accelerated, for this reason, appear on the Green Channel database and could risk bringing the invention to the attention of competitors sooner.
If you would like more information about the benefits of accelerated prosecution or the ‘Green Channel’, please contact Hannah Auger or your usual Kilburn & Strode advisor.