Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Trouble in the Green Energy World

USPTO Green Technology Pilot Program participants are not immune … to the sudden bankruptcies that seem to plague the “green energy” business.

International Battery, Inc. (IB)  received five patents under the USPTO Green Technology Pilot Program prior to its closure in mid-February 2012. These patents (US 7,855,011, US 7,931,985, US 8,076,026, US 8,092,557, US 8,102,642) generally dealt with lithium ion battery or ultracapacitor technology. IB filed a Petition to Make Special under the Greentech program for a sixth patent (US 7,875,382, also for battery technology) but that petition was dismissed by USPTO. The company owned two other US patents for lithium ion battery technology, 7,855,011 and 7,837,745.

IB abruptly closed in early March 2012, citing its inability to earn a profit. About 60 jobs were eliminated with the closing. Its public relations firm stated that “While International Battery has a unique product and green manufacturing process, it has not been able to reach profitability. Unfortunately, given the challenging market, it was unable to raise additional capital to fund its operations.”  IB was founded in 2004.

Like other failed clean energy companies, International Battery received significant loan guarantees. According to an article in the March 13, 2012 Morning Call, the company received almost $3 million in loans and grants from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

Way Better Patents believes that “Inventions in the clean tech patent ecosystem, when brought to market, have economic features of offering competitive returns for investors, competitive prices for consumers, and realistic profits for producers.” (emphasis added)

For some green tech pilot program participants, accelerated examination hasn’t helped them overcome the economic contraction in the green technology renewable power marketplace.