UKIPO “Green Channel” – can the patent system encourage more innovation in green technologies?

Partners Mike Jennings and Alex Bone explore the UKIPO “Green Channel”

At AA Thornton, our patent attorneys have a long history of assisting innovators seeking protection for a variety of green technology including solar technology, waste processing and wind turbines.  Some of our clients were kind enough to share their stories with us, and you can read their stories here.

Several of our clients have made use of the UKIPO “Green Channel” which offers accelerated processing of patent applications for environmentally beneficial technology.  This is a good example of a patent office offering a preferential service to applicants whose technology meets certain environmental criteria. The UKIPO’s low fees and accelerated search and examination allow applicants to quickly determine the available scope of protection – within the first 12 months of a priority filing. This helps applicants make an early informed decision about which countries to proceed in and what amendments should be made, reducing the cost of patent prosecution in other patent offices.

The patent system exists to encourage innovation.  It provides a mechanism that rewards the disclosure of new technology to the public, stimulating both innovation and sharing of knowledge.  We believe that the patent system could do more to encourage innovation in environmentally beneficial areas and so, in February 2019, AA Thornton’s recommendations to one of the IP5 patent offices included a recommendation to reduce fees for inventions that provide environmental benefits.  On reflection, we should have made this recommendation to all IP5 offices.

In early 2019, there were technical reasons why such discounts may have proved difficult to implement.  However, recent developments could help to overcome those difficulties, and we wonder whether a cost reduction for “green” technologies will be possible in 2021, to stimulate investment in technologies that can mitigate damage to our natural environment and climate.


Why do we think it will be easier for patent offices to implement such changes in 2021?

  1. The recent EPO CodeChallenge1 demonstrated the capability of artificial intelligence (AI) to enable the automatic categorisation of “green” technologies – those focussing on climate-change mitigation and adaptation.

This suggests that AI tools and the classification system could be used to provide an objective identification of which patent applications deserve a reduction in official fees.


  1. The IP5 offices (the five largest intellectual property offices in the world) have increased their collaboration in recent years. As part of their harmonisation efforts, the EPO and USPTO have been working on the Cooperative Patent Classification system2 since 2010, and provided updates on 1 December 2020. This is a joint effort to develop a common internationally compatible classification system for patent publications, which will be used in the patent search and examination process.


  1. In the future, we predict that patent offices will be able to reduce their office costs in response to the significant increase in use of environmentally-friendly videoconferencing and home working that started in 2020. That may help to make targeted fee reductions affordable in future years.


Given the advances in classification technology and further moves towards harmonisation, perhaps now is the time to offer fee reductions for inventions that have the potential to mitigate climate-change, and to use the classification system to provide a mechanism for identifying qualifying applications.

We would welcome your views on whether a reduction in examination fees, grant fees or renewal fees, or some other form of preferential treatment, for patent applications classified in climate-change mitigation and adaptation classes would encourage innovation in those areas.


On a related note

We believe in giving credit when it has been earned. As well as congratulating the UKIPO for its “Green Channel” acceleration option, we also congratulate the EPO for helping its worldwide customer base to reduce its carbon footprint by increased use of videoconferencing. This has included extending the pilot project of video conferencing for opposition oral proceedings, updating its rules to facilitate the use of videoconferences for appeals and for taking witness evidence, and making videoconferencing the default option for examination oral proceedings.  These changes have been made possible by the EPO massively increasing its capacity and capability for videoconference oral proceedings (a change which started before the current pandemic) and working hard to ensure that videoconference oral proceedings are efficient and effective.


If you have a green technology and would like to speak to a member of our team about protecting, fill in our contact us form and and the right expert will get back to you.




Category: Latest Insights | Author: Alex Bone, Mike Jennings | Published: | Read more