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Blog Category: Green Technology Pilot Program

2011: A Great Year for American Inventors and Innovation

Photo of USPTO Headquarters

Guest blog post by David Kappos, Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Director of the USPTO

As December draws to a close , it’s difficult to imagine a more historic year for the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) than 2011. The dedication and hard work of our talented public servants has enabled the Agency to make significant strides in the quality, efficiency, and certainty of patents and trademarks granted to technological enterprises. And our collaboration with the small business community has allowed us to level the competitive playing field by offering new tools and resources for independent inventors to acquire intellectual property rights with more ease. As this year comes to an end, I want to take a moment to recount what our extended USPTO family has helped accomplish for American inventors and American innovation, through the lens of a few numbers and key dates that were important this year.

Protecting Innovation to Ensure New Opportunities for American Businesses, Higher Wages, and Greater Economic Security for American Families

Map of U.S. showing distribution of Green Tech patents

Innovation is a principal driver behind our nation’s economic growth and job creation. The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) serves America’s innovators by granting the intellectual property rights they need to secure investment capital, build companies, and bring their products and services to the global marketplace. USPTO is an integral partner in President Obama’s drive to create the foundation for our economic future where we out-innovate, out-educate, and out-build the rest of the world.  USPTO is proud to play a role in accelerating socially conscious technologies in emerging fields like alternative fuels, clean energy, and green technology.

Last fall the USPTO extended the deadline for filing petitions under its Green Technology Pilot Program.  Under the pilot, patent applications involving reduced greenhouse gas emissions, energy conservation and environmental quality are accelerated in their review at no cost to the inventor.

Program statistics show that stakeholders participating in the Green Tech Pilot have obtained patents much more quickly as compared to the standard examination process.  Currently, the average time between granting of a green technology petition and first office action on the merits is just 49 days.  In many instances, applicants have had their Green Technology inventions patented in less than one year from the application filing date.

More than 1,900 petitions have been granted to green technology patent applicants since the pilot began in December 2009. Of the 1,900 petitions granted so far, USPTO issued the program’s 350th patent for a configuration of a wind turbine housing on June 28.

By advancing a commitment to building a more sustainable energy future, USPTO is able to spur additional innovation and promote green collar jobs that provide our world with alternatives to harmful energy practices. This ensures that the U.S. is not just the world’s Chief Global Competitor, but also its Chief Global Citizen.

The ability to develop tools in the name of cause-based enterprising is an endeavor that may still require investment capital, but leaves the rest of the world inspired through human capital—and that’s an example of the sort of nuanced innovation that continues to mark excellence in American leadership.

Using Green Technology to Turn Carbon Dioxide into Cement (and Jobs)

Calera's process - Mineralization via Aqueous Precipitation

In order to meet President Obama’s goal of out-innovating the world in the clean energy economy, the United States Patent and Trademark Office extended the Green Technology Pilot Program. Through this pilot, the USPTO expedites patent applications for any invention that will strongly contribute to improving environmental quality; the discovery or development of renewable energy sources; better use of existing energy resources, or reduction of greenhouse gases. Since the pilot program began in December 2009, a total of 1,918 petitions have been granted to green technology patent applicants, and 328 patents have been issued.

Under this program, California-based Calera Corporation has been able to fast track twelve applications for converting carbon dioxide (CO2) into green “reactive cements” that replace traditional “portland cement” commonly used in the construction of buildings.

The heart of the Calera process, referred to as Mineralization via Aqueous Precipitation, combines carbon dioxide flue gas from power plants with the Earth’s natural waters and converts the gas into stable solid minerals similar to those found in the skeletons of marine animals and plants including metastable calcium and magnesium carbonate and bicarbonate minerals. These minerals can then be used to produce high reactive cements akin to portland cement without the negative environmental impacts derived from mining and processing. For those interested in more details, the USPTO's website has a more in-depth webpage about Calera and this process.