Friday, June 15, 2012

The Importance of Early Publication in Wind

The economics of the USPTO Green Technology Pilot Program  More notes from the USPTO Clean Technology Partnership Meeting.

One of the major players in the Green Technology space, General Electric Company, offered an interesting perspective on why accelerated examination in the Clean Technology is a key strategic benefit for US companies - it results in early publication of important patent applications.

Consider the Windustry.  The Wind Industry market dynamics are in a new nascent phase.  Wind produces 11 percent of the total renewable energy consumed in the US in 2010, the last date comprehensive information is available.  The goal now is to see how much further the industry can grow.  These market dynamics shape the importance of intellectual property and how important patents are as a strategic asset.

Wind is a big industry dominated by a few big players.  With the exception of new technology in low speed urban wind technology from companies like V Squared Wind, Inc. and Windation Energy Systems, Inc., there are a few major players in the Windustry:  GE Wind Energy, Vestas, and Mitsubishi Heavy Equipment among them.  As anyone who watches the Weather Channel's Turbine Cowboys knows, building wind turbines takes a lot of talent, a lot of money, and a lot of technology.  How wind innovations fit into the bigger picture and the ability to drive adoption of wind as a more mainstream energy source is key to making the industry both profitable and sustainable.  (Hopefully without federal funding some day.)

Electricity and power is a standards driven marketplace.  The grid and the supporting infrastructure all needs to - well - work together.  That means standards.

The standards in the electricity business are Grid Codes. A grid code is  basically the technical standards for how wind infrastructure integrates with the rest of the public electric network and vice versa.  It's all about how all the new pieces and parts play together.   And, there is lots of standards building going on at the moment, the Smart Grid project in the US among them.  If you want to drive the market, you want to drive the standards.  If you have patented technology that becomes an essential piece of the new and emerging standards, you are entitled to a royalty from all of the other companies who come to play.  And standards have a habit of putting the background noise to rest so that the companies can get back to the business of competing in the marketplace and stop going to standards body meetings in exotic places.

So why is accelerated examination and early publication important?

Because if you are the innovator who figures out how to solve complex interconnection challenges and you have patent protected inventions in the form of published patent applications and those patent applications are published early then you drive the standard.  If you drive the standard, you drive the market.  If your patent applications move to the front of the pile and your application gets published early (publication is is a global event) then your stuff gets considered by the standards setting organizations because they have access to it to evaluate.  Then bingo...your patented invention is part of the standard.  You drive the standard, you drive the market.  If you drive the market, you make lots of money.  And in theory, that is good for the US economy.

From an economics point of view, a major benefit of the USPTO Green Technology Pilot Program was getting  applications published early as well as getting it examined early.