Waste Advantage Magazine

Do not overlook your business’ intellectual assets

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Courtesy of Waste Advantage Magazine

Intellectual property (IP) plays a vital role in all industries, from manufacturing processes to commercial products, phones to pharmaceuticals and everything in between. And the waste management field is no exception—especially as more environmentally-friendly and more efficient means of waste disposal are invented.

In almost every business—even those that are thought of as relatively low-tech—the enterprise’s intellectual assets are its most valuable resources. Intellectual assets consist of traditional intellectual property such as patents and trademarks plus the company’s trade secrets, technology and know-how. As the waste collection and management business gets increasingly greener, emerging technologies will increase the share of a business’s assets that are intellectual in nature.

One method for establishing the value of an asset—be it real estate, equipment or inventory—is to determine its replacement cost. Should a company’s facility be swallowed by a sinkhole, destroyed by a tornado or washed away in a flood, replacing it with an equal—or even better— facility is merely a question of having sufficient insurance coverage. However, if a company’s technology and knowhow were lost—to a competitor, for example—that is a lost asset that is simply irreplaceable.

Toward Greener Intellectual Assets

In the November 2010 issue of Waste Advantage Magazine, the article, “Garbage to Gold” by Wesley Bolsen, described the derivation of cellulosic ethanol—a “clean burning advanced biofuel”—from renewable non-food sources such as municipal waste. The prospect of waste being used to fill gas tanks instead of landfills, and thus help reduce our nation’s dependence on foreign oil while creating jobs for Americans, is an exciting one indeed. For that matter, so are other waste-to-energy technologies such as the solid oxide fuel cell, trash-to-steam and recovery of methane from landfills.

As gasoline heads to $5 a gallon, what is the federal government doing to actively encourage such multifaceted and “green” solutions? One agency, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office, has a program in place to help speed up the issuance of green patents in four categories, and renewable energy is at the top of the list.

Green Technology Pilot Program

In an effort to bring environmentally-friendly technologies to market faster, the Patent Office launched its Green Technology Pilot Program in December 2009. Filers of patent applications that qualify for the program can petition for accelerated patent examination, cutting the time for the examination process from its current average of three years to just under one year.

However, the Green Tech Pilot Program will only accept the first 3,000 petitions that qualify for accelerated examination, and as of April of this year, only 1,595 petitions had been accepted. To date, about 250 patents have been issued under the program. Although it was expanded in late 2010, the Green Tech program currently has a petition-filing deadline of December 31, 2011. Interested inventors and business owners can learn more at www.uspto.gov.

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