When the Obama administration Nobel prizewinning Steven Chu took over from Bush/Cheney oil man Bodman at the Department of Energy, he prioritized clean energy innovation. By December last year, to speed the development of clean energy solutions to prevent climate change, he had overhauled the patent review process, hiring experts so he could put clean energy patents on a fast track.
Inventors had long suffered a shortage of the skilled reviewers that had the technical expertize to evaluate the science. Patent decisions were taking 40 months. But the new and improved DOE added enough scientific experts to review more ideas faster. Among patents already in the queue, the next 3,000 patent petitions and about 25,000 more that had been gummed up in the works were eligible for the new sped-up review program.
Looks like that investment in patent-reviewing brains is paying off. An upward trend is clear by the beginning of 2010, according to the data from the Clean Energy Patent Growth Index.
Overall, among technologies, solar led clean tech with 88 solar patents, followed by wind with 71. Auto companies filed mostly fuel cell patents. GM filed 9 hybrid-electric vehicle patents and 30 for fuel cells. Samsung also went heavily into fuel cells with 21 patents, and a couple for solar technologies. GE filed 19 wind patents (and 3 for fuel cells).
Japan was far and away the world leader in non-US patents with 124, Korea was next with 35, Germany had 28, France and Taiwan had 9. China had just 6 and Denmark (where they already have plenty of clean energy) merely added 5.
Among states, Michigan for the first time beat California, with 54 clean energy patents to California’s 46. But regardless of who is inventing the solutions, all of these new patents are much needed for tomorrow’s world.
A big hand to all the new hires working for the Nobel prizewinning Steven Chu’s Department of Energy on a job very well done!
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