Green Patents for Green Software

Computer technology moves fast. New software products can have a short shelf life before they become obsolete and are replaced by something else. This can produce some issues for the patent system, but options are available for accelerating the right inventions on the basis of their green credentials.

We have written many articles about the issues in obtaining patent protection for computer technology, even though many computer implemented inventions are in fact patentable.  However, an additional problem can be posed by the speed of the patent system. It can take upwards of four years to obtain grant of a patent, and this might not seem like a good deal when your technology may have become obsolete within a similar timeframe.

One option for dealing with this issue is presented by the “Green Channel” at the UK Intellectual Property Office (UK IPO). This can allow acceleration of patent applications that have “an environmental benefit” and use of this option can significantly reduce the time for an application to be granted to around nine months on average. Similar fast track programs are also offered by a number of other patent jurisdictions.

Environmental benefits might not immediately seem relevant to computer technology. However, the UK IPO Green Channel program is “available to patent applicants who make reasonable assertion that the invention has some environmental benefit” which “can arise in any area of technology”. An online database provides a list of published applications and granted patents which have been accelerated via the Green Channel. Some examples from this database include:

  • Knowledge-based thermal modelling in data centres in order to achieve a more efficiently cooled data centre;
  • A method and system for obtaining point of interest information in the vicinity of a vehicle in order to reduce fuel emissions; and
  • A method to dynamically modify computational simulation parameters in order to more efficiently use computer resources.

Therefore, the Green Channel can be used for a broader range of technologies than might first appear. After all, the information and communications industry is predicted to use 20% of the world’s electricity by 2025, and blockchain processes, such as crypto-currencies, consume vast amounts of computational and electrical resource. More efficient and effective computer programs can help to mitigate these issues, and therefore it seems reasonable to allow these applications to be accelerated.

Obtaining a patent quickly can make a significant difference to tech start-ups as this may influence your ability to obtain funding, find partners and secure your unique offering. Therefore, it is worth considering whether your new invention has any environmental benefit as well. Even if the Green Channel is not an option then there are other options that can be considered such as the Patent Prosecution Highway, or Track One status in the US. In appropriate cases including an acceleration strategy in your patent filing programme could make all the difference between success and failure.

If you have any questions on this article, get in touch with David Lee, via david.lee@gje.com.

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