CLEAN TECH:

Obama admin will speed reviews of 'green' patents

The Obama administration vowed today to streamline the patent review process for "green" technologies and committed $100 million for federal research, development and demonstration projects.

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office will expedite the examination of applications for "green" technologies, which could range from building-integrated photovoltaic materials to electric vehicle batteries. The pilot program is aimed at reducing the patent review time from 40 months to 12 months, a move that will enable inventors to secure funding and launch businesses more quickly, Commerce Secretary Gary Locke told reporters today.

"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," Locke said.

The Patent and Trademark Office will consider on an expedited basis the first 3,000 petitions that are filed, said Undersecretary of Commerce David Kappos, the office's director. Roughly 25,000 pending applications would be eligible for the program, he estimated.

"The development of green technologies is being unacceptably delayed," Kappos said.

The Patent and Trademark Office will not hire additional employees for the pilot program, he noted. If the program proves successful, the agency will expedite the review process for additional patent applications.

Energy Secretary Steven Chu announced at the news conference that his agency's Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy (ARPA-E) will make $100 million available for "green" research, development and demonstration projects. The money comes as part of the $787 billion American Recovery and Reinvestment Act, which President Obama signed into law in February.

DOE will provide funding to projects aimed at making liquid transportation fuels -- without using petroleum or biomass -- by using microorganisms to harness chemical or electrical energy to convert carbon dioxide into liquid fuels. The agency will provide additional funding to "high risk, high reward" research efforts that will improve the capture of carbon dioxide from coal-fired power plants. Lastly, DOE will provide funding to develop ultra-high energy density, low-cost battery technologies for electric vehicles.

ARPA-E's first solicitation, announced earlier this year, resulted in funding 37 projects aimed at innovations in energy storage, biofuels, carbon capture, renewable power, building efficiency, vehicles and other areas. DOE received 3,700 applications for funding, Chu said.

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