If you could ask some of the world’s leading companies about their green technology programs, what would you ask? 

I was recently faced with this daunting question.  On August 17, I will be moderating a panel on green technology for the Bar Association of the District of Columbia.  Registration is still open and I hope you will consider attending the event if you are in the D.C. area.  There will be a question and answer period following the panelists’ short presentations, so if you have questions, this is the perfect event for you. 

As I was preparing for the panel, I came across two intriguing programs created to foster green technology innovations.  First, the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) created the Green Technology Pilot Program.  Under the program, applications for patents pertaining to green technologies are "advanced out of turn," which means the application is reviewed before non-green technology applications. 

The Program is accepting the first 3,000 green technology petitions but the USPTO is suggesting the program may be extended.  I was particularly impressed with the USPTO’s willingness to modify the program after its initial inception.  The program launched in December 2009, but the USPTO quickly modified it in May 2010 in order to include more green technologies. 

The second green technology program was created on the private side and launched in 2008.  The World Business Council for Sustainable Development launched the Eco-Patent Commons, which provides free access to environmentally-beneficial patents:

The Commons is open to all—with global participation by businesses in diverse industry sectors, Universities, research centers, etc. It contains initial and subsequent patent pledges by companies that become members of the Commons. The patents are displayed on a searchable website hosted by the World Business Council for Sustainable Development. . . .

The patents been pledged should provide ‘environmental benefits’, which may be a direct or indirect purpose of the patents. Some examples of environmental benefits are energy conservation or efficiency, pollution prevention (source reduction, waste reduction), use of environmentally preferable materials or substances, materials reduction and increased recyclability.

Both of these programs may prove beneficial to the green building industry as companies strive to create new green building technologies.