Doing our part to mitigate climate change: fast-tracking green innovations
Blog by Kathi Vidal, Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Director of the USPTO
In January, our colleagues at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, a sister bureau within the Department of Commerce, reported that 2021 was the fourth warmest year on record for the United States, with 20 separate climate and weather-related disasters costing over $1 billion each in the U.S. alone. From floods and fires, to extreme heat, to severe winter storms, these events resulted in the deaths of 688 people and had serious economic consequences for the regions affected.
Inventors and entrepreneurs are answering the call to address the climate crisis. Our patent technology center that focuses on new innovations aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions technologies last year received 40,000 patent applications, down slightly from the previous year, likely due to the pandemic, but still comprising almost 7% of yearly patent applications across all fields of technology.
It’s essential to protect these transformative energy innovations with intellectual property (IP). Innovation is a primary driver of the U.S. economy, and IP is the bridge between an idea and bringing that innovation to market. As we stated in on our recent IP and the U.S. economy report, industries based on innovation and the protection of intellectual property generate almost $8 trillion ($7.8 trillion) in GDP, and account for 44% of all U.S. jobs. Workers in patent-intensive industries earn almost $1,900 per week. That is 97% higher than the average weekly wage of workers in non-IP intensive industries.
We also know that startup companies that have a patent are far more likely to be successful in raising funding than those that have not secured intellectual property protection. Consider the following:
• When used as collateral, a patent increases venture capital funding by 76% over three years, and increases funding from an initial public offering by 128%.
• The approval of a startup’s first patent application increases its employee growth by 36% over the next five years.
• After five years, a new company with a patent increase its sales by a cumulative 80% more than companies that do not have a patent. 1
At the USPTO, we are committed to encouraging and incentivizing innovation in clean and green energy technologies to combat the climate crisis. Recently, I had the chance to discuss this topic with Dr. Suresh Sunderrajan, Associate Laboratory Director for Advanced Energy Technologies at Argonne National Laboratory, at the Department of Energy’s Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) Innovation Summit. During our discussion, Dr. Sunderrajan and I reinforced the goal for all of us to work together – from government, to academia, to the private sector – to advance clean energy innovations and bring these transformative technologies to the market. The protection of intellectual property plays a key role in that process.
That is why I am pleased that we just announced our Climate Change Mitigation Pilot Program, a brand new program which will fast track the examination of certain patent applications for innovations that reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Applications involving technologies that mitigate climate change will be advanced out of turn (granted special status) until first action on the merits by a patent examiner, if the applications meet all program conditions. To participate, an applicant must complete a petition form with the USPTO and upload it in Patent Center. Learn more about what applications qualify for the program and how to apply on the Climate Change Mitigation Pilot Program page of the USPTO website.
During the coming year, we will accept up to 1,000 qualifying applications into this pilot program without requiring applicants to pay the petition fees or satisfy the typical requirements of the existing accelerated examination program (e.g., the requirement for an examination support document).
The human, financial, and ecological toll of climate disasters is significant and growing. This new program is just one way in which we are working to incentivize and expedite clean energy technologies that will help reduce greenhouse gas emissions and mitigating the effects of climate change. We welcome your thoughts on this program and encourage you to submit comments on our federal register notice. Contact us at PatentsClimateChangePilot@uspto.gov with any feedback or questions.
12016 National Bureau of Economic Research Working Paper No. w21959, “The Bright Side of Patents,” and 2019 update to the study “What is a Patent Worth? Evidence from the U.S. Patent ‘Lottery’, Journal of Finance, USPTO Economic Working Paper 2015-5