There is a fall in number of US patent for CleanTech since past few years as seen from 2014 to 2016. There is no easy explanation as to why number of CleanTech patents granted in the U.S. fell drastically in the last few years, but according to Bijal Vakil, research and development to decarbonize the world typically relates to fossil fuel energy prices. Ultimately, when fossil fuels are relatively cheap, innovation and corresponding patent applications typically decrease.

What does the future of CleanTech look like?

Historically, we have not seen many competitor-based IP litigation in the energy sector. So, there are not necessarily companies “sitting on energy patents.” Instead, practicing companies are following historical patterns of not asserting affirmatively against competitors. The fact that the NPEs are not suing may be mainly due to several factors including the price of oil as energy companies not seen as the deep pockets they were just a few years ago. When the economy picks up and as oil prices go up, there is a good chance that we will see more activity in the energy patent space. But, until then the uncertainty with the current administration has brought things to a standstill.

According to the survey

According to the report, 186,500 patents have been granted in the US since 2011 across 14 clean-tech categories. (It’s important to remember, however, that researchers can patent inventions regardless of whether the concepts have been shown to work). The report also highlights the extent to which clean-tech patenting is concentrated in few categories. Advanced green materials (e.g. alternatives to plastic), energy efficiency, and transportation (e.g. hydrogen fuel cells for planes) each accounted for 18% of the total patenting during the time period analyzed. Categories like geothermal energy and hydropower, on the other hand, each made up for less than 1% of patents since 2011.
The number of clean-tech patents granted has actually declined in recent years. Between 2014 and 2016, it decreased by 9 percent, according to the report. Saha and Muro predict that if the Trump administrations proposed budget moves forward, the number of clean-tech patents would plummet even more. The report analyzes data on clean-tech patents from 2011 to 2016, and ranks cities based on which ones boast the highest number of patents filed. In determining the list, the researchers took a variety of sectors into account, including bioenergy, hydropower, solar power, and energy storage.

Many possible reasons

There are many possible reasons for this, including the price of oil dropping, overall patent lawsuits slowing down due to a combination of factors including 101 challenges, venue uncertainty, etc, and that many energy IP suits were customer suits not ripe for more extended litigation. There are some new CleanTech priorities for the new administration and Congress in the coming year. While there has been a renewed focus on traditional fossil fuel technology, there is also a simultaneous interest in energy security in a world with political uncertainty.