The emergence of the cleantech industry dates back to the publication of reports relating to global warming or cities turning into gas chambers due to air pollution. The use of clean technology is emerging as a game changer for automotive companies, home appliance manufacturers, and personal consumer product companies. The R&D activity in cleantech businesses in different sectors is propelling clean innovations, and we are witnessing an increase in patenting activity in the cleantech industry.

When we talk about cleantech, we find a substantial rise in R&D activity in three major sectors: 1. Clean Energy Harvesting, 2. Energy Efficient Systems: Electric Vehicles and 3. Environmental protection. The R&D within these sectors is dominated by reducing pollutants or preventing them from being released into the atmosphere. If we look at the trends in filing patents and grants in these sectors, we will find that the grant rate in this sector is as high as 75%. The primary reason for the high rate of patent grants is attributed to the fact that innovations in cleantech technology do not face as much prior art to encounter novelty issues. This allows cleantech industries to file increased applications and obtain patents to build a dominant position in these sectors.

Clean Energy Harvesting 

According to recent reports, the production of energy, particularly electricity using traditional methods, contributes to the maximum pollution of the environment. Cleantech industries have picked up fields such as bioenergy, fuel cells, geothermal energy, hydro energy, nuclear energy, solar energy, and wind energy to generate clean energy. The stringent pollution control norms in India have phased out the polluting electricity generating systems such as thermal power plants, particularly in urban locations where air pollution threatens human life. Nuclear power generation has also picked up in some countries, but the Fukushima Daiichi disaster in 2011 raised questions about its public acceptance and cast a shadow over nuclear power's prospects as cleantech in many countries. However, India plans to significantly expand the use of nuclear energy within its energy mix of other cleantech power production schemes. Nuclear power production in India in 2020 was about 46 TW-hours (TWh) of electrical energy. The government is planning to expand its use tenfold, to 25% by 2050.

Energy Efficient Systems: Electric Vehicles (EV)

Using electric vehicles as an alternative to petrol /diesel vehicles is gaining ground in India, and so is the patent filing activity. Rising innovative trends in battery technology inventions trigger the growth of the EV market. Due to the growth in this sector, innovation has flourished, with companies across the globe racing to file patents for new EV inventions. Lithium-ion battery technology, which is at the heart of Electric Vehicles, saw a surge in patenting activity in 2016. In India, according to an estimate given by The Ministry of Heavy Industries, 80% of two-wheelers and 30% of cars on Indian roads will be EVs by 2030. This anticipated growth in electric-driven vehicles may tempt new startups/entrepreneurs to venture into this emerging market space. If we see a patent filing trend in EV and related technology in India, around 1200 published patent applications are reported from 2017 to 2022.

However, the global trends during the period from 2015 to 2022 are striking, as China alone filed more than one lakh patent applications, followed by Japan with around 36000 and the USA with more than 22000. This indicates there has been robust, innovative activity in this technological space. We may expect a rise in national phase application in this field in the coming years. Close watch on the patenting trends will be EV sub-technologies ranging from the arrangement of Batteries to the arrangement of Electronics and the arrangement of Propulsion to steering systems to braking systems. New trends in this area to watch in Indian patent office are 'single input multi output forward converter for EV charging application' [202441010252], ‘Wireless Ev Charger’ [202311078811], Methods And Systems For Monitoring The State Of Charge (Soc) Of An Electric Vehicle (EV)[ 202341066654], Efficient Ev Charging Scheduling Through Artificial Intelligence[202341072580] and so on. Indian players such as Matter Motor, which works with over 50 patents and one hundred filings on diverse EVs and related technologies, have occupied a significant IP space in India. OLA Electric Mobility Pvt Ltd, an Indian startup, is also active in EV and related technology patents with more than 67 patent grants.

Interestingly, this startup also used expedited procedures for grants by using India as an ISA. They have obtained patents within seven months from the date of filing of the application. At the international level, starts like Sakti3 (USA) with sixty-nine patents; NovaTorque with around thirty-six patents; and Wireless Advanced Vehicle Electrification (WAVE) with around twenty-five patents on diverse EV and related technology have occupied a significant IP space in EV and related patents. Other active patent applicants in EV and related technology include Honda Motor Co., LG Chem Ltd., Toyota, and TVS Motor Co. Ltd.

Environment Protection

Cleantech patent for environmental protection relates to waste management, recycling, the process of conversion of waste to biofuel or the treatment of industrial waste or waste disposal systems. The aim of all the inventions in this field is to minimise or totally remove industrial pollutants from the environment. Inventions patented in India in this field include A Smart Vehicle for Waste Management, Waste Management System, And Method Thereof, A System for Modified Thermo-Chemical Conversion of Waste Biomass to Stabilized Biofuels and Synthesis Gases, High-Performance Supercapacitors from Microporous Carbon Derived from Gingelly Oil Waste, A Process for The Preparation of Organic Phase Change Material from Thin Film Plastic Waste, Differentiating Studies on Dumped Mining Waste Using a Reducing Agent, Method And System for Extracting a Cellulosic Material from Waste Material Using Energy-Efficient Process, A System for Converting Organic Waste into Livestock Feed and Nutrient Materials, Device, Method and System for Disinfecting Infectious Waste, Eco-Friendly Fabric Dyeing Method Using an Organic Dye Fixing Formulation to Minimise Waste Discharge, Waste Disposal System and so on.

Fast Tract grants of cleantech patents in India

The patent Rules were recently amended to allow expedited examination of patent applications filed by startups. For example, Matter Motors, an Indian startup for EV and related technology, received patents within seven months from the date of filing.

Technical institutions like Goa Institute of Technology and Ramco Institute of Technology are also active in filing patents relating to EVs and related technology. It is instructing to note that these institutions have also availed themselves of expedited examination under the patent rules and obtained patents on clean technology faster than other patent applications, though they filed the examination request a bit later.

Similarly, many of the patent applications for waste management /waste treatment and related fields filed in 2023 originated from women inventors / small entities /startups/institutions and were granted between six months to one year from the date of filing as these applicants have used the expedited process for examination as available under the amended patent rules. An illustrative list of the FastTrack grant in waste management patent is given below.

Looking Forward 

According to a recent survey of the green patents granted in India as of 2022, there are over 60,000, with 90% of those patents related to alternative energy production and waste management. The diversity of the leading Indian patent filers, such as startups, institutions, and women inventors, underscores the broad impact and potential benefits of cleantech. This growing field has patent fillers for EVs, related inventions, and waste management/waste processing/ conversions in different sectors. It is heartening to note that Indian inventors are investing in innovations and patenting in the cleantech industry using the fast-track grant procedure. Government policy for ease of patent granting procedure through the patent rule amendment is a welcome move as an increasing number of women inventors, startups, and small entities are using fast-track patent grant procedures to consolidate their IP portfolio in the clean technology.

In India, cleantech industries like bioenergy conversion, fuel cells, geothermal energy, hydro energy, nuclear energy, solar energy, and wind energy are gaining importance in generating clean energy. The number of patent applications in these fields is also growing as well. The future of the commercialisation of cleantech patents in India is bright, and it is the right time to file more patent applications to consolidate your position in the cleantech space. Expert advice can be helpful for new startups, women inventors, or institutions to secure patents in the EV and related inventions or waste processing /management inventions.