https://ipo.blog.gov.uk/2013/06/10/economics-of-fast-tracked-green-patents/

Economics of fast-tracked green patents

Today’s blog outlines the evaluation of the Fast-tracking Green Patent Applications authored by Antoine Dechezleprêtre, researcher at London School Economics (LSE), who presents his findings at the IPO today.

Fast-track applications give priority to patents for green technologies that conserve the natural environment or reduce our negative impact on the earth. They reduce the time to grant from several years to a few months, and have been adopted in Australia, Canada, Israel, Japan, Korea, USA and the UK. The research finds that fast-track applications are most closely associated with climate-change related technologies.

Fast-track applications significantly reduce the length of examination process. However usage rates, with the exception of the UK who have the most popular system, are low. These rates range from 21% of eligible patent applications in the UK to 1-2% in Australia, Canada, Japan and Korea. So what explains the low use of the scheme outside of the UK? IP professionals suggest that, while filing an application provides stronger protection than secrecy alone, there are more incentives for a longer process than a shorter one. A long examination process provides the opportunity to defer payment and more time to make adjustments and assess commercial viability.

The paper provides some interesting analysis which examines the value, and the extent to which ideas and knowledge are shared as a result of fast-tracked green applications. It finds:

  • fast-track patents are filed in more countries than patents which aren't fast-tracked providing an indication of their increased value
  • fast-track patents are 56% more likely to be filed in all three of the major patent offices – Europe, USA and Japan - than non-fast track applications. Patents filed in these three offices are associated with higher value inventions
  • fast-track patents are cited twice as often as ones that are not fast-tracked during the same period. This highlights their worth as statements of new technology and their ability to increase the rate of idea sharing

Overall, most countries using the scheme have a low take-up rate, most likely due to the incentives linked to a longer examination process. This does not necessarily imply the failure of the policy: it is more the case that they are used in specific circumstances. Start-up companies frequently use fast-track applications as a granted patent can help some companies raise private capital. However, the relative popularity of the scheme in the UK indicates that there is demand for this type of policy, and that there could be lessons to learn for other countries.

So, should fast-track applications be limited to green technologies? Why does the UK have such an appetite for the scheme? Post your views, and remember – keep them clean and keep them green.

If you have questions or feedback, do comment on this blogpost and we’ll do our best to respond.

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2 comments

  1. Nicola Searle

    I'm not sure my comment is green, so to speak, but what is the rationale behind fast-tracked patents?

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    • Dominic Webber

      Well, Nicola, the main rationale behind fast-tracked patents is to stimulate innovation in clean technologies as part of the ongoing battle against global climate change. This is achieved by prioritising green over non-green patent applications allowing these technologies to reach the market quicker. As Antoine pointed out, the UK has been successful in this aim. 21% of eligible green patents that were fast-tracked reduced their time to grant by an average of 75% compared to non-fast track patents.

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