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Inventing Green

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"Necessity is the mother of invention," as the saying goes. Apparently the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) is taking this notion seriously in the realm of sustainability if their latest program is any indication. The USPTO issues patents to inventors and businesses as well as trademark registration for products and intellectual property. The recently launched pilot program fast-tracks the "examination of certain 'green' technology patent applications... to accelerate the development and deployment of green technology, create green jobs, and promote U.S. competitiveness in this vital sector."

According to U.S. Commerce Secretary Gary Locke,

"By ensuring that many new products will receive patent protection more quickly, we can encourage our brightest innovators to invest needed resources in developing new technologies and help bring those technologies to market more quickly."

According to the USPTO website, the average pendency time for applications in the areas of green technology is about 30 months, and 40 months for a final decision. Although the office doesn't mention what this acceleration will mean in terms of time, the pace at which the world is embracing new green technologies means that we may be falling behind in bringing these new ideas to market. In many ways, we've already fallen behind in adopting new green offerings, so by reviving one of the most fundamental aspects of our society -- our speed of innovation -- this new program by the USPTO could be significant.

We obviously have a backlog of inventions that aren't getting to the market fast enough. This is the good news and the bad news all wrapped up in one package. We're obviously still creating new and exciting products, but more slowly than other countries are. Are these good products and services? We can't know for sure unless they are brought forward, at which point the market will decide what works and doesn't. At least the USPTO is recognizing this and taking steps to move forward.

Jonathan A. Schein is the publisher of MetroGreenBusiness.com and GreenBusinessCareers.com.

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