Patents vs Trade Secrets: Choosing the right path for intellectual property protection
In the complex landscape of IP, the choice between patents and trade secrets depends on various factors such as…
Are you interested in accelerating the grant of your patent application? Does your invention provide some environmental benefit?
If so, consider the UK Intellectual Property Office (UKIPO) ‘Green Channel’.
The Green Channel allows applicants to request accelerated processing of their patent application provided that they can show that their application has an environmental benefit. The applicant can request accelerated processing for any of the following: search, examination, combined search and examination, and/or publication.
The Green Channel reduces the time taken for a patent application to grant, with applications granting in less than one year in some cases. This is a significant reduction from the three to four years or more that an applicant may typically expect.
Beneficially, there is no fee for using the service.
The service began in May 2009 and, since it was introduced, the number of applications for the Green Channel has gradually risen. With the government publishing its net zero strategy back in 2021 and the growing number of inventions directed towards limiting the effects of climate change, it is anticipated that applications for the service will continue to rise.
All published applications and granted patents that have been accelerated under the Green Channel are published in a database, which can be found here. The applicant should carefully consider the effects of early publication when considering applying for the service, see below.
Getting a patent through to grant can be a long process, typically three to four years in the UK. In some circumstances, applicants may want to have their rights granted sooner. Circumstances where applicants may find accelerated processing useful include, for example, for attracting investment, to act against potential infringers, when negotiating licensing agreements, or to establish a likely scope of protection for the invention before seeking patent protection in other jurisdictions.
There are several ways to get a patent granted more quickly, such as the Patent Prosecution Highway (PPH). However, the Green Channel provides another option for applicants wishing to accelerate their route to grant with a low administrative burden.
The Green Channel is available to applicants who make a reasonable assertation that their invention has some environmental benefit.
The environmental benefit need not be obvious or profound and the UKIPO will not conduct a detailed investigation into the applicant’s assertations. Importantly, applications are not restricted to a particular area of technology, i.e. they do not have to strictly involve a ‘green’ technology. For example, methods of manufacture with an improved energy efficiency, or products comprising recyclable materials, are considered to have sufficient environmental benefits. Nonetheless, requests that are clearly unfounded will be refused.
Application for the Green Channel is straightforward.
Applicants must make a request for application in writing to obtain accelerated processing. This request can be made at any stage of prosecution. There is no automatic entry for the Green Channel for particular areas of technology.
The request must be made in writing and include:
1. How the application is environmentally-friendly?
For more obvious ‘green’ technologies, such as wind turbines, a simple statement on how the application is environmentally-friendly is likely enough. However, less obvious applications may need more explanation as to their environmental benefit.
2. Which actions they wish to accelerate
Any of the following actions may be requested for acceleration: search, examination, combined search and examination, and/or publication.
As mentioned above, no fees are required for using the service.
A key consideration when using the Green Channel is that costs are more front-loaded. Many applicants prefer a slower route to grant as this gives them time to develop their invention and determine if the invention is commercially viable before committing to further costs. Under standard prosecution, fees can be delayed until later stages of prosecution (i.e. after 1 to 2 years from filing).
Furthermore, as mentioned earlier, all published applications or granted patents that have been accelerated through the Green Channel are published in the Green Channel database. Applicants must therefore consider the effects of early publication. Early publication could prematurely alert others, notably competitors, to the applicant’s activities. It also means that the applicant has less time to develop the product and explore the market before going public.
The Green Channel is only applicable for accelerating the grant of patents in the UK. For applicants seeking accelerated patent protection in other jurisdictions, the Patent Prosecution Highway may be more appropriate. More details on the Patent Prosecution Highway (PPH) can be found here.
Finally to summarise, the Green Channel provides applicants with a straightforward and low-cost way to accelerate patent prosecution. However, applicants should think carefully about the potential drawbacks of early publication before going ahead.
If you need any advice on the the UKIPO Green Channel, please contact us.