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15 July 2013
The race to patent 'green' inventions in Canada is in full swing. Demand for Canadian patents relating to environmentally friendly and energy-conserving technologies is strong and is expected to increase rapidly over the next few years due to the growing market and competitive atmosphere. Diverse industries, from oil and gas to hydroelectric power, are investing in green patents.
In 2010 alone, research and development in the Canadian green technology industry totalled approximately C$985 million. Such investments have led to increased patenting activity. According to a search carried out using the information on the Canadian Intellectual Property Office (CIPO) website, more than 9,300 patents have been granted since the beginning of 2010 that fall into one of the International Patent Classification Green Inventory classifications (ie, international patent classifications that relate to a green technology). This equates to an annual average of approximately 7.5% of all patents granted in Canada, indicating significant demand for green patents.
Moreover, the variety of these patents spans a wide spectrum of technologies, reflecting the diversity of demand. Thousands of recently granted patents relate to fuel cells, energy extraction from waste and traditional green technologies, such as wind and solar power. Other areas, including energy conservation technologies for buildings, waste management and even technologies relating to carbon emissions trading, are also well represented.
The Canadian government has recognised the importance of green inventions and has introduced a means for applicants to speed up the patent application process for such inventions. CIPO will expedite examination of applications relating to green technologies, provided that the applicant files a declaration indicating that "the application relates to technology the commercialization of which would help to resolve or mitigate environmental impacts or to conserve the natural environment and resources".
A broad range of green technologies appears to be eligible. According to a report by the International Centre for Trade and Sustainable Development entitled "Fast-tracking Green Patent Applications: An Empirical Analysis",(1) it takes 68% less time on average for a fast-tracked application to be granted than other Canadian applications. This can lead to greater certainty and protection of IP rights, which can be a significant advantage.
The value of green patents and patent portfolios should rapidly increase as the industry shifts focus from investment to commercialisation. Already, significant transactions in the form of licensing, financing and mergers and acquisitions involving green intellectual property are being struck between companies. According to the 2012 Global Cleantech Innovation Index Report, Ontario is making a "strong play to become a cleantech hub".(2)
The green technology industry is poised for substantial growth in Canada, with government initiatives, tax incentives and a vast natural resources sector (hydro, wind, forestry, mining, oil) comprising 11.5% of the nation's gross domestic product and employing 763,000 workers. Green innovation will play a significant part of this growth, and protecting green inventions will be more important than ever.
For further information on this topic please contact Glen S Kurokawa or Daphne C Lainson at Smart & Biggar/Fetherstonhaugh's Ottawa office by telephone (+1 613 232 2486), fax (+1 613 232 8440) or email (firstname.lastname@example.org, or email@example.com). Alternatively, contact Alistair G Simpson at Smart & Biggar/Fetherstonhaugh's Toronto office by telephone (+1 416 593 5514), fax (+1 416 591 1690) or email (firstname.lastname@example.org).
(1) 2012, available at http://ictsd.org/i/news/bioresreview/158580/.
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