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UK Green Channel patents plummet by almost 50% in a year

The Climate Change Committee and Intergovernmental Panel On Climate Change have called for more investment in environmental research and development, but Britain’s associated tech sector is lagging behind.

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An analysis of the Intellectual Property Office (IPO)’s Green Channel in the UK has revealed that applications for new patents through this system fell by 47% in 2022. Just 166 were submitted. 

The office was launched in 2009 with the aim of encouraging the development of planet-friendly technology and innovation. By offering a quicker route to assessment of patent submissions, eco-conscious products can skip the lengthy wait — often many years — that more traditional designs are subject to. 

It’s thought the drop in activity overall may be simply because the benefits offered are not enough to truly stimulate new work. Many companies actually want to slow down the patenting process because as soon as assessment begins, costs to the applicant are incurred, regardless of whether the product is ready for market. Instead, a better approach would be for the UK Government to pay IPO Green Channel fees up front. 

Experts have raised particular concern about the implications of these figures given recent reports by the Climate Change Committee and Intergovernmental Panel On Climate Change have called for an urgent increase in investment for environmental research and development. 

Earlier this year, a separate investigation found that quarter one of 2023 had seen less money pouring into this sector in regions across the world, despite that period breaking annual seasonal temperature records. Others have also pointed to the importance of Britain keeping pace with other countries and trade blocs in terms of green industry in order to maintain competitiveness and ensure long-term economic growth. 

‘If we want to see a substantial increase in green technology created in the UK, merely offering companies the opportunity to speed up the patenting process using the Green Channel is not enough.  In many cases, speeding up the patenting process is something that companies wish to actively avoid because it accelerates the costs that are incurred as a patent application progresses to grant,’ said Posy Drywood, of full-service intellectual property firm, Mathys & Squire. 

‘The biggest barrier that most small businesses face when it comes to patenting their technology is cost, so surely the most effective way to increase the number of greentech patent filings would be to subsidise them.  For instance, a 50% discount on the fees for an international patent application could make a big difference, allowing small companies to protect their innovation globally,’ she continued. ‘The statistics on uptake show that the Green Channel isn’t working as effectively as it should.  A better way to encourage greater IP in the field of greentech is to make patenting those products more affordable.’

Image: Nicolas Thomas

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