By Moeller IP Advisors
The Potential for Green Technologies
Green is certainly an adjective that fits Brazil. Not only because of the abundance of its natural resources, but for several other reasons: Brazil is one of the world leaders in bioenergy – more than 85% of the domestically produced electricity used in Brazil comes from renewable energy sources.
Moreover, the country has been a pioneer in biofuel production from ethanol and is now one of the biggest producers. Not only has the biofuel sector allowed Brazilian companies like Cosan or GranBio to prosper but it has also seen US companies like Shell, Amyris, Solazyme and Cobalt enter the scene, with conspicuous investments in ethanol, biobutanol and biofene production plants.
It goes without saying that fields like alternative energy production or clean transport require a great effort in research and development and constant investments in innovation: patents are the only way to protect such efforts.
However, it is well known that the Brazilian patent system suffers from a chronic issue: the one of the backlog. Currently, the Brazilian PTO’s (Brazil Patent Office) average time for granting a patent is 10 years. This is extremely discouraging for foreign and local companies that need a fast return on their investments. Moreover, as the field is constantly innovating, this could mean that the technology becomes already obsolete by the time the patent is granted.
The Green Patent Program
That’s why, in April 2012, the Brazilian PTO launched an innovative fast-track program exclusively for green patents (patentesverdes). It was the first emerging economy to do so.
The program aimed at accelerating green patent applications, reducing the average time to less than 2 years and focusing on the areas of alternative energy, transportation, energy conservation, waste management and agriculture.
Biofuels were obviously included in the list of technologies that could be granted the fast track, together with less known, but equally relevant technologies like geothermal energy, ocean thermal energy, hydrogen-powered vehicles and use of waste for production of fertilizers, among the others. The list compiled by the Brazilian PTO was based on the WIPO’s IPC Green Inventory.
Obviously, the traditional requirements of novelty, inventiveness and industrial application needed to be respected as well.
In addition, the application must have contained a maximum of fifteen claims, including 3 independent claims; it must have been published in the Brazilian Industrial Property Gazette or a request for early publication must have been submitted; and a fee of R1,775, around 500 USD, must have been paid.
The green patent fast-track program, being a pilot program, limited the number of patents that could benefit from the priority examination to 500.
From Pilot to Permanent
On December 6, 2016, the Brazilian PTO announced that the green patent program has become permanent.
Data collected from 2012 shows that the program has been a success: on a total of 480 applications, 325 were considered eligible for the priority examination. The average time for granting a patent was about two years, much less than the 10 years the Brazilian PTO has been averaging.
As it is clear, a faster examination process can allow inventors to start licensing their technologies more quickly; moreover being granted a patent is also pivotal for smaller companies to raise investment capital – and it worth noticing that some of the key actors in the green tech and biofuel production