The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) announced Wednesday that it is extending for another year its Green Technology Pilot Program to fast-track the evaluation of patent applications for "cleantech," including inventions related to environmental quality, energy conservation, development of renewable energy and greenhouse gas emission reduction. The program, initiated in December 2009, will now run through December 2011, or until the office approves 3,000 fast-track petitions (pdf).

This may very well require another year (maybe longer). As of November 2, only 790 of the 1,595 petitions submitted to the program had qualified to jump to the front of the patent examination line. Of those, 94 submissions have been granted patents.

The USPTO has tweaked the fast-track program, which got off to a slow start with only one third of petitions being approved, a few times since its inception. In May, the office opted to allow more categories of technology to be eligible for expedited processing under the program. Initially, the program was limited to inventions in certain classifications to help the office balance the additional workload for its evaluators and gauge the resources needed for the program, according to the USPTO.

The USPTO concluded, however, that the classification requirement was unnecessary because Green Technology Pilot Program petitions were not adding much workload, and the requirement was causing the denial of petitions for a number of green technology applications that would have otherwise qualified for the program. The acceptance rate has since risen to about 50 percent.

Image courtesy of Andrei Nikolaevich Rybachuk, via