FedInvent Reports for May 24th, 26th, 31st and June 2nd
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We hope you had an enjoyable week. Here are the links to the latest FedInvent Reports.
The Experts At ORNL
What We’re Reading on the Web
One of the good things about the federal government is that they have experts on everything. We took a break from doom-scrolling on inflation, baby formula shortages, gun violence, and crime to see what was happening in the federal innovation ecosphere. Here is what we found.
Innovators at Oak Ridge National Lab announced that the US has retaken the top spot in the race for the fastest exascale computer in the world. Frontier, the name of the massive machine at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, was declared on Monday to be the first to demonstrate performance of one quintillion operations per second — a billion billion calculations — in a set of standard tests used by researchers to rank supercomputers. There is a growing list of patents and patent applications that have come from the high-performance computing work at the national labs. (You can read the New York Times article here if the paywall behaves. You can read the Oak Ridge National Lab’s announcement here.)
A Green Technology Flashback
Here We Go Again
Many of the Biden Administration's policies feel like the policies of the Obama Administration. On Friday, the Patent Office announced its new Climate Change Mitigation Pilot Program. The program is designed to "positively impact the climate by accelerating examination of patent applications for innovations that reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Under this program, qualifying applications involving greenhouse gas reduction technologies are advanced out of turn for examination (granted special status) until a first action on the merits—typically the first substantive examination—is complete." (Federal Register announcement is here.)
The Biden Administration Climate Change Mitigation Pilot Program feels like the Obama Administration USPTO Green Technology Pilot Program. In December 2009, the USPTO announced a pilot program to accelerate examining "green" technology patent applications. According to the initial 2009 press release, the program intended to "accelerate the development and deployment of green technology, create green jobs, and promote U.S. competitiveness in this vital sector." The country was in the middle of the Great Recession at the time. Green jobs were coming to the rescue.
The Obama program accelerated examination throughout the entire process, from submitting a non-provisional patent application to the final decision on granting or rejecting the application. The Biden plan gets your greenhouse gas-reducing patent application to the top of the docket through the first office action on the merits, and then what comes next is up to you and your patent examiner.
It looks like the Biden Administration will spread the climate change mitigation program across a broader sphere of inventors. This time around, inventors can only have four patent applications in the pipeline. USPTO rules say that "applicants may not file a petition to participate in this pilot program if the inventor or any joint inventor has been named as the inventor or a joint inventor on more than four other nonprovisional applications in which a petition to make special under this program has been filed." Last time around, there were no limits on how many applications inventors could petition to include in the program.
What Will Qualify This Time?
Students of patent classification know that USPTO has already set up a group of Y Cooperative Patent Classifications (CPCs) to place inventions it deems important in mitigating climate change. Patents containing 'Y" CPC symbols indicate emerging technologies critical to U.S. scientific leadership.
Patent documents that contain a Y02 or Y04 CPC symbol are already classified elsewhere. USPTO add the Y symbols to the classification data to monitor new technological development covering clean technology and inventions impacting climate change, important American science and technology interests. The Y classifications fall into two groups:
Y02 — Green House Gas Mitigation — Y02 covers selected technologies that control, reduce or prevent anthropogenic emissions of greenhouse gases (GHG) in the framework of the Kyoto Protocol and the Paris Agreement and technologies that allow adapting to the adverse effects of climate change. Y02A covers technologies for adaptation to climate change — technologies that allow adapting to the adverse effects of climate change in human, industrial (including agriculture and livestock), and economic activities. Y02P covers climate change mitigation technologies in industrial processing or production activity, including the agroalimentary industry (relating to agriculture and food), agriculture, fishing, ranching, and the like.
Y04 — Enabling Technologies — Y04 is focused on the information and communications inventions that facilitate climate change technology. Y04S covers systems integrating technologies related to power network operation, communication, or information technologies for improving electrical power generation, transmission, distribution, management, or usage. Examples of the art covered here are technologies related to smart grids, home appliances, and systems supporting the interoperability of electric or hybrid vehicles.
(The FedInvent list of Climate Change Mitigation CPCs is here.)
Each week you'll find new federal patents and patent applications that earned a Y CPC symbol in the emerging technology section of the FedInvent Report. But there's a catch. We find many more green technology patents that don't have Y CPCs and probably should than the weekly USPTO count. For example, USPTO seems to miss battery technology. So far in 2022, 121 patents with a Y CPC symbol and 46 Y patent applications. There are at least 91 battery and fuel cell published patent applications so far this year. Sometimes anti-viral and vaccines for diseases exacerbated by climate appear to earn a Y, and sometimes they don't. We've been trying to figure out the magic of how green technology inventions earn a Y symbol, but so far, it remains elusive.
Back In the Day
We had the usual sense of deja vu reading the Climate Change Mitigation Pilot Program, so we decided to dig out our analysis from the last time around. Wayfinder Digital analyzed the patents and patent applications from the Obama Era Green Tech Patent Pilot Program. Here is what we learned. First, getting your application into the accelerated examination was the wordsmith's work. Experienced patent writing experts dominated the program. General Electric's patentistas convinced the patent office that a door and a hinge for the body of a wind turbine were essential green technology, a fine example of patent vocabulary ballet.
General Electric Company and Ford Global Technologies own 30% of the patents granted under the USPTO Green Tech Pilot Program. Most transportation-related patents (67%) were for internal combustion engine technology inventions. Many of the patents and applications that made their way through the Obama program showed the beginning of green synthetic biology inventions. At the time, the green tech jobs mission didn't produce the results everyone expected. It doesn't feel like much has changed on the green jobs front since 2012.
Since the Biden Administration has adopted an all-of-government approach to climate change, we'll be standing by to see which federal climate change mitigation program patent applications make it into the program.
Before We Go
The Health Complex Year-To-Date
The year-to-date counts for Health Complex patents and Health Complex patent applications can be found here and here. You'll find the data table showing the institutes and HHS agencies and their patent and app count for 2022.
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The FedInvent Team
FedInvent tells the stories of inventors, investigators, and innovators. Wayfinder Digital's FedInvent Project follows the federal innovation ecosphere, taxpayer money, and the inventions it pays for. FedInvent is a work in progress. Please reach out if you have questions or suggestions. You can reach us at email@example.com.
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