The Latvian Patent Office (LPO) announced today the launch of an accelerated examination program for green technology patent applications which would grant patents in “about an hour.”
Apparently, the astonishing turnaround time is possible because of the chronically underutilized staff of the LPO. Since its modern inception in 1992, the LPO has employed just one part-time patent examiner who works 2-3 days a week (Mondays, Wednesdays and alternate Fridays from 9:30 AM to 3:30 PM with an hour and a half for lunch and six 15-minute cigarette breaks).
The LPO has extremely light application volume in part because the current European patent system enables applicants to file in the European Patent Office, where substantive examination takes place, and simply validate any resulting patent in individual country patent offices like the LPO.
Applicants participating in the new fast track program will receive a first office action within 15 minutes of filing. If the applicant is able to prepare and file a response by the half-hour mark, the LPO guarantees a final disposition (either final office action or patent grant) within an hour of the filing time.
One down side for participating applicants is that any continuations or divisional applications would have to be filed within 59 minutes and 59 seconds of the filing time of the parent application.
Jāzeps Pliekšāns Heinrihs Klapje de Kolongs Aleksandrs fon Freitāgs-Loringhofens, the LPO’s Director of Policy, is confident the office can deliver results in the promised time period:
If the glasses store can make glasses in about an hour, the Patent Office of the Republic of Latvia can grant a patent in the same time. Glasses are complex plastic, metal or wire frames containing delicate discs of prescription glass. Patents are just small stacks of paper.
Latvia joins a number of other countries that have instituted accelerated examination programs for green technology patent applications, such as Australia, Brazil, Canada, Japan and Korea, but is by far the smallest market country to do so.
Some of the other green patent fast track programs such as those implemented by the Korean Intellectual Property Office and Brazil’s Institute of Industrial Property have received some heat for rules that smack of protectionism such as requiring the applicant to have received funding or certification from the government (Korea), have a local corporate entity and office (Korea), or limiting eligibility to national applications (Brazil).
Clearly aware of these criticisms, the LPO fast track does accept national stage applications and has only minimal local requirements. Rather than make the applicant establish a local office, for example, the fast track rules simply require that the applicant build a local bird house in the country suitable to support a family of White Wagtails, the national bird of Latvia.
According to Dr. Klapje de Kolongs Aleksandrs fon Freitāgs-Loringhofens:
Applicants will be very delighted at the beautiful plumage of the White Wagtail and have the option to build the bird house in the capital, Riga, and the surrounding area or in the countryside, for example, in the Courland, Latgale, Vidzeme, or Zemgale regions.
The LPO’s fast track rulemaking committee settled on the bird house provision after failing to reach a consensus on a requirement for the applicant to take “substantial steps to support” the population of Latvia’s national insect, the two-spot ladybird.
While there is no additional fee for the green patent fast track program, the LPO suggests a mandatory donation for each participating patent application of at least 5 kilograms of amber, a fossilized tree resin which is one of Latvia’s most important cultural symbols.
Eric Lane is a patent attorney at McKenna Long & Aldridge LLP in San Diego and the author of Green Patent Blog. Mr. Lane can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org