Recognizing there’s now a sense of urgency in saving the planet, the U.S. Commerce Department’s Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) will pilot a program to accelerate the examination of certain “green” technology patent applications. According to the USPTO the move is designed to “accelerate development and deployment of green technology, create green jobs, and promote U.S. competitiveness in this vital sector.”

Patent applications are normally taken up for examination in the order that they are filed. The average pendency time for applications in green technology areas is approximately 30 months to a first office action and 40 months to a final decision.

Pending patent applications in green technologies will now be eligible to be accorded special status and given expedited examination, which will reduce the time it takes to patent these technologies by an average of one year. This will enable inventors to secure funding, create businesses, and bring vital green technologies into use much sooner.

The USPTO’s accelerated examination program already fast tracks patent applications that meet certain criteria including patents relating to HIV/AIDS and cancer, counter terrorism, recombinant DNA, energy and superconductivity materials. Now, under the Green Technology Pilot Program, applications pertaining to environmental quality, energy conservation, development of renewable energy, or greenhouse gas emission reduction, will also be advanced out of turn for examination without meeting all of the current requirements of the accelerated examination program.

“Every day an important green tech innovation is hindered from coming to market is another day we harm our planet and another day lost in creating green businesses and green jobs,” Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Director of the USPTO David Kappos said. “Applications in this pilot program will see a significant savings in pendency, which will help bring green innovations to market more quickly.”

Under the pilot program, for the first 3,000 applications related to green technologies in which a proper petition is filed, the agency will examine the applications on an accelerated basis. The program, which started on December 8, will run for 12 months so petitions applying for the program must be filed before December 10, 2010. Depending on the effectiveness of the pilot program and feedback from the participants the USPTO may extend it beyond that date.