Biofuels Patents Surge, Small Players Drive Solar Lead

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The Clean Energy Patent Growth Index (CEPGI) recently released its Third Quarter 2013 Results. Researched and published by the Heslin Rothenberg law firm, CEPGI is a quarterly report on clean energy patents granted in the United States.

CEPGI has been tracking green patent trends by technology sector, assignee, and geography since 2002. Until very recently, fuel cell patents were the perennial leader. But as of the last report for Q2 2013, solar patents took the lead.

Though dropping by 21 in the third quarter, solar patents held the lead, with 225 granted patents in Q3. Fuel cell patents were in second place (195), with wind in third place with 146. According to the report, wind patents were down 5 from the second quarter and dropped 24 compared to the same period in 2012.

Hybrid-electric vehicle patents were in fourth place, with 108, up 14 from the last quarter and representing a large year-on-year jump of 27 patents. The largest surge was in biofuels/biomass patents, which finished with its highest ever quarterly total of 64. This was a 17-patent increase from the second quarter and a jump of 25 from Q3 2012.

The top green patent assignee in the third quarter was General Motors, with 40 patents, with Hyundai coming in second (31) and Toyota and Samsung tied for third place (27). Mitsubishi and GE were next with 25 and 21 patents, respectively, both primarily relating to wind. Rounding out the top ten were Honda, Ford, Nissan, and Kia.

The report notes that cross-referencing the assignee list with the technologies indicates that small entities are more active than large corporations in solar patenting:

[D]espite there being more Solar patents granted in the third quarter than the other technologies, among the top ten clean energy patent grantees, Fuel Cells and Hybrid/Electric Vehicle patents vastly outperformed Solar with Fuel Cells topping Solar by over eight times, at 107 to 13, suggesting that the large patent grantees are not driving the explosion in Solar patents, and instead smaller patent grantees are driving this trend.

CEPGI also breaks out patent grants by country/state of the assignee. Japan was the leader, with 151 patents granted, with California a distant second place with 70. Korea was in third place with 69 patents, followed by Michigan (61), Germany (55), New York (34), and Taiwan 31. Other states and countries with significant numbers of clean energy patents included Massachusetts (18), Texas (16), Denmark (15), Spain (14), and China (13).

Eric Lane is a patent and trademark attorney and the Principal at Green Patent Law in San Diego and the author of Green Patent Blog. Mr. Lane can be reached at (619) 818-6043 and at elane@greenpatentlaw.com.

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Walter’s contributions to CleanTechies over the past 4 years have been instrumental in growing the publications social media channels via his ongoing editorial and data driven strategies. He is the founder and managing director of Sunflower Tax, a renewable energy tax and finance consultancy based in San Diego, California. Active in the San Diego clean technology community, participating in events sponsored by CleanTech San Diego, EcoTopics, and Cleantech Open San Diego, Walter has also been a presenter at numerous California Center for Sustainability (CCSE) programs. He currently serves as an adjunct professor at the University of San Diego School of Law where he teaches a course on energy taxation and policy.

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