Granted Green Patents Peter in First Quarter of 2008

A study by the Heslin Rothenberg law firm shows that the number of clean energy patents granted by the U.S. Patent & Trademark Office (PTO) decreased in the first quarter of 2008.  The newest installment of the firm’s Clean Energy Patent Growth Index (CEPGI), published quarterly, found that 220 clean energy patents were granted in the first quarter of this year, compared to 228 in the first quarter of last year and 227 in the fourth quarter of 2007.  (see the Greentech Media article)

Among the report’s findings are that patents for wind power, tidal/wave power and geothermal energy went up relative to the last quarter, while fuel cell patents, hybrid/electric vehicle patents, biomass/biofuel patents and solar power patents were down.  However, fuel cell technology remained by far the most represented, with 124 patents, or 56% of the clean energy patents granted in the first quarter.  Wind power patents were second with 35 patents granted, with 23 solar patents and 19 hybrid/electric vehicle patents.

The leading clean energy patentee in the first quarter of 2008 was Honda, with 16 patents, followed by General Electric and General Motors, each with 11.  The top ten list includes other automotive companies Nissan, Toyota and Hyundai.

As the Greentech Media piece points out, the CEPGI data may indicate the hot areas of research and development in clean energy but doesn’t necessarily measure innovation or commercial success.  For instance, the article notes that, despite the relative dominance of fuel cell patents, fuel cells are not a particularly lucrative market. 

Another question CEPGI doesn’t answer is why there was a first quarter dip in granted clean energy patents.  Is it due to fewer applications being filed or fewer applications being granted?  Is the PTO become tougher on clean energy patent applications or perhaps tougher in general?  One way to investigate this would be to search the PTO’s published applications database in addition to searching issued patents.  A quarterly tally of the clean energy applications would shed some light on clean energy patent filings and might provide a fuller picture of what is happening in clean energy innovation.

Eric Lane Avatar

Eric Lane

Eric Lane, the founder and principal of Green Patent Law, is an intellectual property lawyer and registered U.S. patent attorney in New York and is a member of the bar in New York and California. Eric has more than two decades of experience working with wind, solar PV, CSP, biofuels, and geothermal, energy storage technologies, carbon capture and sequestration, medical devices, data communications, mechanical, chemical, internet and software.