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US Patent Office Fast Tracks Green Patents 136

Posted by samzenpus
from the government-always-liked-you-best dept.
eldavojohn writes "A new initiative is being piloted where 'green' patents are given special priority over other patents in the backlogged system. David Kappos (Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Director of the USPTO) said, 'Every day an important green tech innovation is hindered from coming to market is another day we harm our planet and another day lost in creating green businesses and green jobs. Applications in this pilot program will see a significant savings in pendency, which will help bring green innovations to market more quickly.' The details of how you qualify for a green patent (PDF) are available with patent blogs offering opinions on this initiative."
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US Patent Office Fast Tracks Green Patents

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  • by FooAtWFU (699187) on Wednesday December 09, 2009 @11:36PM (#30384968) Homepage
    Seems a trifle off. Something about "equal protection under the law" and not having the institution too subject to the whims of the ruling party and the lobbyists of the week.
    • by Cryacin (657549)
      What? My widget is green! We painted it last week.
    • by MakinBacon (1476701) on Thursday December 10, 2009 @12:37AM (#30385254)
      What are you talking about?. This is perfectly normal. The Patent Office is just fulfilling its duties of stifling innovation by granting patents for the most obvious of technologies. They know they've gotten a little behind on green technology because companies are starting to make serious advancements, so they're giving green patents a higher priority to make up for lost time.
    • by Yokaze (70883)

      Yes, you are right, why doesn't the porn industry get the same subventions as the crop industry.
      How dares the executive to set priorities, instead of spreading the money equally amongst men.

      Maybe equal protection has nothing to do with it?

      • by Bigjeff5 (1143585)

        Maybe equal protection has nothing to do with it?

        Since equal protection is in the Constitution, it certainly should have something to do with it.

    • by Z00L00K (682162)

      One way to speed up things would be to dismiss a lot of patents for being too obvious.

      And that's something that doesn't need to require too much skill.

      Also make sure that any patent dismissed for obviousness can't be refiled.

      • A better way would be to stop issuing software patents.

      • This is the part that bother me: "Every day an important green tech innovation is hindered from coming to market is another day we harm our planet and another day lost in creating green businesses and green jobs."

        I just heard that quote on a Christian radio station not too long ago, but with slight differences: Every day a [missionary work] is hindered from coming to market is another day we harm our [souls] and another day lost in [saving the sinners]. More-and-more Greens are looking like they belong

  • by weston (16146) <westonsd&canncentral,org> on Wednesday December 09, 2009 @11:38PM (#30384988) Homepage

    -- you know, the ones where you can say "a method for conveying stateful customer information ON THE INTERNET -- then pretty much all I'll need to contribute to the progress of the useful arts and sciences and, more to the point, amass a formidable patent portfolio, is add USING SOLAR POWER.

    I've already applied for the business method patent, but reasonable licensing is available!

    • by Interoperable (1651953) on Wednesday December 09, 2009 @11:56PM (#30385072)

      Every patent will point out that it consumes less energy than it theoretically could have if it had been poorly engineered. It's...greener than the alternative...I guess.

      Faster algorithms will qualify. Just tabulate the total energy saved in data centers that will use your green algorithm. New, large hats might reflect more visible sunlight back to space. New oil extraction methods will more efficiently deliver fossil fuels to gas tanks (thereby lowering the price point and generating more emissions), a new method of writing patents can will green-wash them so they generate less paper work in the streamlined process. All will qualify! (Except that the meta-green patent is a methods patent and wouldn't qualify anyway.)

    • by Paeva (1176857)

      Look. It's a *jump to conclusions* mat - that's - *solar powered*.

  • by Interoperable (1651953) on Wednesday December 09, 2009 @11:44PM (#30385018)
    sorting out truly green patent applications from ones that have green-washed the terminology. I suspect it will do more to promote the, already abused, usage of the term green than actual environmentally friendly initiatives. Still, promoting less wasteful technology is by no means a bad thing, whatever the motive. Even if the initiative fails to promote green inventions (not that I'm saying it will, just that it will be ambiguous to determine), the ideal of efficiency and conservation will be promoted in the public eye.
    • by phantomfive (622387) on Thursday December 10, 2009 @12:04AM (#30385122) Journal
      It doesn't matter. It is merely a political move by this guy to make his boss (or boss's boss) happy.

      The fact is, this move will do nothing to increase the speed of technology, because technology in no way depends on the patent system. You don't have to wait for a patent to be processed before you can actually build and market your product. You don't even have to wait to charge royalties until the patent is approved. This new policy will accomplish nothing.
      • by chaboud (231590) on Thursday December 10, 2009 @01:37AM (#30385450) Homepage Journal

        What it does do is solidify the positions of green IP holders looking to screw companies in less advanced nations by taking their cut of (or limiting production of) the "green" products that will be required to play in the newly-legally-mandated global green economy.

        I know it sounds all tin-foil-hat-y, but the prospect that CO2 policy could be used to keep richer nations dominant via IP has been haunting me for some time. If US/Euro companies get their cut of the green economy mandated by their own governments without actually having to produce anything, it could artificially screw with otherwise normal factor-price equalization.

        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Znork (31774)

          Ah, don't worry, IP is mostly used to screw richer nations, and is one of the reasons that western industry is so incapable of competing these days. From a macroeconomic point of view it's the equivalent of a heavy taxation scheme, and a very inefficient one at that, leading to higher costs in industry and workforce and rendering it uncompetitive. It'd be almost amusing to see complaints about high taxes and inefficient government while getting reamed by IP if it just wasn't so sad.

          The less advanced nations

          • by debrain (29228)

            Sir -

            The purposes of patents was, among other things, to publicize inventions that would otherwise have remained trade secrets, allow commercialization with the risk of others "stealing" the idea, and to prevent the invention from disappearing when the inventor died (these purposes being long before corporations lived in perpetuity).

            In many ways the patent system has succeeded in achieving many of its objects in a way that I feel confident has significantly advanced human society (in ways that would never h

        • Green patent trolls, green cross-licensing agreements, green blocking of competitors....

        • by hey! (33014)

          Hardly. It's *patents themselves* that makes screwing of the third world possible in things like biotech.

          The obvious intent is to increase the number of green tech startups. One of the things on the goody list when somebody buys you out is do you have any licensable IP. It won't make much difference to Dow Chemical, but it will make a difference to some chemist who wants to start a compnay that might be *bought* by Dow. A lot of startups need more money to commercialize an idea than can be found by smashi

        • by 5KVGhost (208137)

          I know it sounds all tin-foil-hat-y, but the prospect that CO2 policy could be used to keep richer nations dominant via IP has been haunting me for some time.

          Well, yeah. Stupid, fraudulent spectacles like Copenhagen illustrate that fairly clearly.

          The assumption behind the entire CO2 hysteria is that the rest of the world does not really deserve the comforts that we take for granted. So the assembled carbon racketeers are perfectly happy to forbid the most cost-effective technologies available to the develop

    • by nametaken (610866) *

      Muhaha... "the use of materials that can be more easily replenished and/or recycled". Patent Pending... suck it bitches.

    • the ideal of efficiency and conservation will be promoted in the public eye.

      Nonsense! The "public" neither knows nor cares what type of patents are being issued, so they'll not even notice "the ideal of efficiency and conservation" being "promoted".

  • In a related story, a team of scientists from New Zealand claim to have found a cure to HIV, but that it has been backlogged in the US patent system for years.

    In an interview, the lead scientist said "We were waiting for our patent to go through, and we just got this notice 'Your Patent has been moved back in the queue to make room for "greener" energy patents. We hope you understand, as we take part in saving the world'. I thought it was a joke at first, but the 1-800 number at the bottom was for the US
  • Uhhh (Score:5, Insightful)

    by moosesocks (264553) on Wednesday December 09, 2009 @11:49PM (#30385036) Homepage

    "Every day an important green tech innovation is hindered from coming to market is another day we harm our planet and another day lost in creating green businesses and green jobs. Applications in this pilot program will see a significant savings in pendency, which will help bring green innovations to market more quickly."

    I'd consider myself a reasonably strong environmentalist, but cannot for the life of me comprehend that quote. Aren't products released to market all the time with a "Patent Pending" status? Wouldn't environmentalism benefit from weaker patents surrounding green tech?

    The same logic has been applied to drug patents, which only last 7-12 years in the US, purportedly to widen availability of generic drugs, as well as to keep the industry on its toes. (As the law of unintended consequences goes, this makes non-generics outlandishly expensive, and makes pharma a very high-risk industry, given the incredibly high R&D costs of developing/testing new drugs)

    • by Culture20 (968837)

      Wouldn't environmentalism benefit from weaker patents surrounding green tech?

      That is the biggest question, and the answer is a resounding yes. If everyone can make the greenest FOO, it will less expensive. If it's less expensive, it will be more likely to replace existing non-green FOO. I know I might buy more CFLs if they would cost less than Incandescents.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by moosesocks (264553)

        That is the biggest question, and the answer is a resounding yes.

        Then it's not much of a question, is it?

        Even though I agree with you on a basic level, I'm not sure I agree with the principle. Without patents, what drives innovation to produce the newest and greatest green FOO? The R&D expenses for some of this stuff can be quite high.

        (Also, how many lights do you have that CFLs are a cost-prohibitive option? I replace them one by one as they burn out. A 3-pack of good-quality CFLs costs about $6 at Wal-Mart. Still about 3x the cost of the same number of incande

        • by timmarhy (659436)
          But your so wrong, patents are the road block with innovation, because there's no point in investing in RnD when some patent troll already has some board patent on what your working on. the patent Troll won't ever produce the invention, they are just going to suck the life out of anyone doing the RnD. So no one produces anything new because most stuff is covered under ridiculous patents.

          to me the best solution is either force them to produce a prototype or limit the patent to 3 years if nothing is brought

          • by Dahamma (304068)

            I'm not usually a grammar fascist, but - are you drunk, or really trying to make a serious argument with that incomprehensible run-on?

            Funny thing is I actually AGREE with your second statement about producing a workable implementation, otherwise limiting the patent length. But I totally disagree (I think, it's hard to tell ;) with your first, that patents inherently block innovation. I guarantee you that 90% of the modern drugs in use would not exist if they were not patentable. And most USEFUL patents i

            • by timmarhy (659436)
              I'm not going to apologise for not proof reading something i posted on slashdot 50 times to avoid grama nazis, i just don't care ok (plus it's funny when you point the finger and then include such gems as a ;) )

              that aside, i'd like you to provide some examples of modern drugs that wouldn't exist without patents. I hear this kind of defence for patents, but never any actual examples to back it up. again my proposed 3 year limit to bring it to market would protect these anyway.

              • by Dahamma (304068)

                "again my proposed 3 year limit to bring it to market would protect these anyway."

                Yeah, that's part of the problem. I'm not going to go bother looking it up examples right now, but most drugs take longer than 3 years from initial R&D, multiple phases of trials, FDA approval, and launch.

                That process can cost many millions (or in some cases billions) of dollars, and require many years to recoup those development costs. Without patent protection, who in their right mind would invest that much in highly e

                • by Bigjeff5 (1143585)

                  There is a current cholesterol drug on the market that took 17 years to make it from concept to sellable product. If we started their patent clock from the day they applied (probably 10-12 years before they made it to market, in order to protect their investment), or if they had a 3 year limit, the drug would not be sold today because nobody would have bothered in the first place. They'd get a couple years of patent protection and then it's fair game, hardly enough to make the almost 20 years of work wort

        • Re:Uhhh (Score:5, Insightful)

          by scdeimos (632778) on Thursday December 10, 2009 @01:32AM (#30385436)

          A 3-pack of good-quality CFLs costs about $6 at Wal-Mart. Still about 3x the cost of the same number of incandescents, although the CFLs last a lot longer, and use sufficiently less energy to pay for themselves over their lifetime

          As good little consumers I know that's what we're supposed to think, but:

          1. my experience has shown that CCFL's need replacing much more frequently than incandescents ever did.

          2. they only consume less energy if they're left on for long periods (> 30 mins or so) as they have quite high start-up currents until they come up to operating temperature (1-5 minutes).

          3. they output much higher levels of UV than incandescents, aggravating some skin conditions and causing retinal damage with some people.

          4. they also contain hazardous chemicals such as mercury, complicating their disposal - our local city council has no *legal* means of CFL disposal yet, with most people just throwing them in with the regular refuse.

          I think that our (Australian) federal government having "phased out" incandescent bulbs is a premature action. I'd rather see LED lighting get traction but, again, hazardous chemicals.

          • by Khyber (864651)

            1. PL-L CFLs need the replacing more often - they way they're designed is absolutely horrible and they burn themselves out because of it. I bought a 3-pack of regular spiral CFLs from Albertsons for $1 (thanks to a then-running Edison Electric sponsored special) and so far these have outlasted every PL-L that my apartment complex uses (all bathrooms use PL-L fluorescents and the new spotlight outside my stairs uses PL-L, and while my CFLs are a year old already, the PL-L tubes aren't even three months old,

          • 1. Not in my experience.
            2. The only study I know said break even was five mins.
            3. A few watts of US is going to do significant damage?
            4. You may have a point.

          • by tyrione (134248)
            Not all CFLs are equal. I'd rather see LED get traction, but first in Municipality lighting for highways, downtowns, stadiums, corporations, etc., to help drive down the cost with them absorbing the R&D tariff.
        • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

          by Shakrai (717556)

          A 3-pack of good-quality CFLs costs about $6 at Wal-Mart.

          I'm going to rant here....

          The delay in reaching full brightness irks me to no end with CFLs. It's not a big deal when you are talking about a room where you turn the light on and leave it on for several hours (my living room) but it drives me up the fucking wall when you consider rooms that you breeze in and out of (the bathroom, closets, etc.). By the time the damn things reach a decent level of light output you've already moved on to the next household chore.

          Then there's the Hg content. I wonder how

          • by jonbryce (703250)

            The additional coal burned to power an incandescent bulb will release a lot more hg into the atmosphere.

      • That is the biggest question, and the answer is a resounding yes. If everyone can make the greenest FOO, it will less expensive. If it's less expensive, it will be more likely to replace existing non-green FOO.

        Your logic is flawless assuming that somebody bothers to invent the greenest FOO in the first place. Where will you find investors to finance your R&D if they know that the moment your invention is proven to work everybody will copy it and sell it at a lower price than you (since they don't have
        • by Culture20 (968837)
          The question presupposed that the greenest FOO had already been invented, and did not ask what would drive the best innovations to help protect the environment. Instead, it focused on what would be the best means of spreading green tech. I suppose a possibility might be that if a patented invention is so world-shatteringly good, a government could declare eminent domain and either force the production or provide free licenses to anyone who wants to produce the green FOO. Inventor still makes some money (
    • As a fellow "greenie" I agree, the statement is full of political buzzwords "green business", "green jobs", "significant savings", "green inovations", "to market more quickly".

      He is simply trying to justify his departments existence with an obvious lie, either that or he has no idea what his department actually does.
    • ...there should be compulsory licensing for all the green patents. In other words, you have to license the technology. To make that practical, I'd also stipulate that you have to license it at a reasonable rate and I'd base that on a fixed percentage of the sales price of the items made by the licensees.

      This would also lay to rest all the "big oil companies bought the patent on the green tech so they could suppress it" conspiracies.

      Actually, I think there should be compulsory licensing on ALL patents (ie,

    • by nametaken (610866) *

      "Wouldn't environmentalism benefit from weaker patents surrounding green tech?"

      I think the idea is that strong patent protection encourages research and development by offering a limited monopoly to the patent holder.

  • An apparatus for the sequestration of carbon dioxide in liquids, such as well water or tap water, removing harmful carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and allowing the possibility of selling the liquid with the carbon dioxide therein as healthy and refreshing drink to Europeans and East-Coast Yuppies.
  • Overkill (Score:5, Funny)

    by ShakaUVM (157947) on Thursday December 10, 2009 @12:07AM (#30385136) Homepage Journal

    Looking around my hotel room here, there's no less than:
    Green shampoo and conditioner
    Green shampoo bottles (made from corn!)
    Green soap (no soap in the middle of the bar - less waste!)
    Green soap box (it's brown! it must be good for the enviroment!)
    Save the environment sign with a panda bear, telling me to reuse my towels. (If you don't, the panda will eat you?)
    Another sign explaining just how green the green soap is (and the green soap is actually branded "Green Natura"), including the use of soy products for the ink.
    Green facial soap.
    Sign telling me not to smoke unless I can breathe backwards.
    Sign by my bed, telling me I need to place it on the bed if I want my sheets changed.

    My fucking lord - you want MORE green products? Where will they go?

    • Most of the "green products" you've just mentioned in all likelihood have little actual environmental benefit. Alternative energy technology on the other hand may very well serve us well economically and environmentally. Even if you don't care one bit about the environment, you've ot to admit that at some point we're going to grow beyond what fossil fuels in of themselves are capable of providing.

      • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

        by Shakrai (717556)

        you've ot to admit that at some point we're going to grow beyond what fossil fuels in of themselves are capable of providing.

        We've had the technology to displace fossil fuels since the 50s. We just moved away from it because of a handful of loud NIMBYists/greenpeace'ers and a whole lot of FUD.

      • by ShakaUVM (157947)

        >>Most of the "green products" you've just mentioned in all likelihood have little actual environmental benefit.

        But... but... they say GREEN in huge letters on the boxes! Surely they must be good for the environment! My lord, man, my soap has a giant hole in the middle of it! If that doesn't save the pandas, I don't know what will.

        But yeah, seriously. Nuclear power.

    • You stole my idea for a "green" suppository!!

    • by Tom (822)

      My fucking lord - you want MORE green products? Where will they go?

      Uh, we're talking about patents here, dude. You know, that thing which originally was intended for ideas that nobody else has had so far?

      • by ShakaUVM (157947)

        To invent more pointless crap that is vaguely environmentally friendly?

        Maybe now is the time for me to patent my oil-leak caps, which would be positioned on all the leaking fissures off the coast of California, to stop the earth from polluting itself with all that crude oil.

        Never thought off-shore drilling could be so environmentally friendly, eh?

      • by cas2000 (148703)

        Uh, we're talking about patents here, dude. You know, that thing which originally was intended for ideas that nobody else has had so far?

        wrong. patents are not for ideas that no-one has had before. they are for inventions that no-one has made before.

        patents do not cover ideas, they cover specific inventions. there's a HUGE difference.

        • by Tom (822)

          Yes, I know. But it would've ruined the punchline to insist on the differentiation. :-)

  • Amazon (Score:2, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward

    Patents "Green One-Click Checkout"

  • by doug141 (863552) on Thursday December 10, 2009 @12:25AM (#30385208)

    More suggestions:
    *fastrack patents that "help the poor"
    *fastrack patents that will "create jobs"

    This is just to broaden options for repaying campaign contributions.

  • This is yet another example. When businesses decide things, they make choices to maximize financial gain. When governments decide things, they make choices to maximize political gain. Therefore, anyone who trusts the government to act in their interests had better be damn certain they never lose an election or fall out of political favor. If you're not directly in power, you're just "the little people" and that power will be wielded against you. You'd best hope those are limited powers.

    BTW, this story

    • by idiotnot (302133)

      Mod parent up. This is political payback to the civil lawyer lobby who heavily fund Democrats. When they talk about "green jobs," they're obviously talking about cases for the trial lawyers to litigate.

      You can also bet that "green" products won't have a statutory limit on liability claims from injured people anytime soon. Even if one of these products turns out to have health effects worse than asbestos.....

      • by WCMI92 (592436)

        Mod parent up. This is political payback to the civil lawyer lobby who heavily fund Democrats. When they talk about "green jobs," they're obviously talking about cases for the trial lawyers to litigate.

        You can also bet that "green" products won't have a statutory limit on liability claims from injured people anytime soon. Even if one of these products turns out to have health effects worse than asbestos.....

        Of course. Look at the government takeover of healthcare that is being misnamed "reform". Everyone is expected to take a hit, doctors, hospitals, insurance companies, the citizens, etc, in the form of less payment, higher taxes, higher premiums, etc. The only group left out, are, you guessed it, the trial lawyers.

        I think lawsuits over the mercury in CFL bulbs are going to be the "asbestos" lawsuit bonanza of the next 20 years. The democrats don't care enough about this to ban them, the 100 watt bulb must

  • Hire more examiners and make sure a good part of them have degrees.

    How do we pay them?

    How about a royalty tax? ...and that includes on the ridiculous settlements exacted by patent trolls.

    • by gandhi_2 (1108023)

      How about every denied patent becomes a granted patented which is the property of the examiner?

  • Troll:
    Would you grant them for some dough?
    Would you grant them for some blow?
    Would you grant them for B-Ho?
    Will you grant them, yes or no?

    Locke:
    Yes, we will grant green tech to trolls!
    They'll make us look good for the polls!
  • Bubble (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Citizen of Earth (569446) on Thursday December 10, 2009 @01:37AM (#30385448)
    Green-tech: the next big stock-market bubble. Just remember to bail out when the feeding frenzy starts to feed on itself.
    • by Khyber (864651)

      Some of us are in it to stay because we have actual products, expertise, and technology to contribute - most everybody else is full of shit.

  • Oh good, now I can get my patent on "process for deploying biological devices to convert CO2 into oxygen and sugar using various enzymes in combination with solar power." I call this invention "plants."

    • Cynical and possibly venomous, but not a troll.
    • by kimvette (919543)

      OK how exactly was I a troll? I'm making fun of the USPTO, which damn well deserves it given all of the non-invention/"discovery" patents it has granted (such as the human gene sequence), and issues patents for devices which are obvious to those skilled in respective trades, and so forth. I was shooting for "funny" but my post is all too close to the truth.

  • Patents are stifling battery technology. Further in the case of environmental and health concerns, there should be no patents at all. Additionally, greater minds than mine, such as Benjamin Franklin, a pioneer in the nascent field of electricity and electrical technology suggested that patents IN GENERAL were immoral, selfish, and that innovation should be contributed "For the Greater Good".

    But whatever, let's rush the patents on stuff that we need for the planet faster, so that these greedy corporations

  • Yes, its great news. Now, we have a great way of stopping some of these idiotic ideas in their tracks, which is what patents usually do, or stopping them once they have got going, which is almost as good. But it comes too late for many ideas, which are already in the public domain.

    For example, we can no longer patent the idea of killing huge numbers of birds by erecting vast quantities of whirling mobile metal machines on migration routes, on the pretext of generating electricity. The thing I truly wish w

  • by Mostly a lurker (634878) on Thursday December 10, 2009 @03:28AM (#30385844)
    Say, you have an idea for improving the efficiency of solar panels. Commercializing it will cost many millions of dollars, but there is a healthy expanding market. Why not? Well, if there are several patents held by other organizations on inferior solar panels, but including necessary aspects of your better design, this severely restricts future profits from sale of the improved panels, and the viability of development.

    Unfortunately, this is not just theoretical. It is the what happens time and time again. Often, the obvious aspects of some technology get patented early which makes it uneconomic to do the necessary optimization of the process for a decade or more.

  • are green with envy. Do they qualify?
  • Hopefully this will apply for those with an actual product and not some half-cocked theory without any real testing to back it up.

    Wishing in one hand, the other hand is beneath my asshole.

  • I'm skeptical. Big coal and oil companies are already patenting the hell out of every possible green tech, without any plans to actually implement this. Fast-tracking patents is likely to hinder innovative green startups, which cannot afford to patent everything, nor lawyers to hold off the bad guys. Rather depressing. Please tell me I'm wrong.

  • Does this mean it will only take 1 year for the patent to go through?
  • than a bunch of patents.

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