Tom Keighley

Government beats the drum for ‘green channel’ IP

Intellectual Property Minister, Baroness Wilcox has been looking to drum up support for the green channel scheme, which aims to speed up the patent process for innovative eco-friendly ideas.

She challenged businesses to make more use of the process in a series of visits to companies in Surrey that are already successfully using it to add value to their business.

Gordon Murray Design were praised for their use of the green channel which has allowed the company to speed up the launch of a product, and go on to produce low-cost, eco-friendly cars which use recycled plastic bottles in the body panels.

Baroness Wilcox said: “It’s tremendous to see how an idea has been turned into an actual business product swiftly and efficiently.

“By using the ‘green channel’, an environmentally friendly idea and novel approach to manufacturing is being brought to market quickly, helping to deliver real value and growth to a typically inventive small British firm.

“ Protecting your intellectual property, and maximising its economic potential, makes a real impact especially for small companies which are the lifeblood of the UK economy.“

Gordon Murray’s iStream automotive manufacturing process has been licensed out, so that other companies can invest in, manufacture and deliver environmentally friendly cars.

Bob Elliott, Partner at DWF and expert in IP suggested that it was not alway in the applicant’s best interest to accelerate the patent process, when the technology to be covered by the patent is still in development.

Mr Elliott said: “This is the government beating the drum for an initiative which was first launched in May 2009.

“The idea of the green channel is that someone with an invention with an environmental benefit can ask the IPO (in writing) to accelerate the procedure for handling a patent application, including searching for relevant prior art, examining the patent for patentability, and publication of the application, to help with early grant of the patent.

“Early grant would, in principle, provide earlier effective protection for the invention against copying.

“If the applicant asks for acceleration across all stages of the process, and then responds quickly to any observations from the IPO, then a patent could be granted within 9 months from filing, which would be a significant saving on the timetable for most patent applications. However, there is no guarantee that the timescale will be met in all cases.

“Also, if the patent application encounters difficulties (for instance, because the IPO’s search comes up with a significant amount of potentially relevant prior art), then the applicant will still have to spend time and effort explaining its position to the IPO before the IPO can be satisfied.

“It is not therefore a short-cut allowing the applicant to by-pass any of the normal procedures.”

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