Solar Outperforms Fuel Cells in US Patent Index for Q2 2013

18 Oct 2013

CEPGI Q2 2013

The Clean Energy Patent Growth Index (CEPGI), published quarterly by the CLEANTECH GROUP at Heslin Rothenberg Farley & Mesiti P.C., provides an indication of the innovative trends in the clean energy sector from 2002 to the present. Results from the second quarter of 2013 reveal solar patents for the first time topped fuel cell patents to take the quarterly lead among technology sectors — by 37 patents. CEPGI has a value of 765 granted U.S. patents during the quarter, which is up 27 relative to the first quarter total of 738, but is down 21 relative to the quarter from one year prior. Toyota was granted the highest number of clean energy patents for the second quarter.

The granting of patents by the United States Patent and Trademark Office (PTO) is often cited as a measure of the inventive activity and evidence of the effectiveness of research & development investments. Patents are considered to be such an indicator, because to be awarded a patent, it requires not only the efforts of inventors to develop new and non-obvious innovations but also successful handling by patent counsel to shepherd a patent application through the PTO. Thus, the granting of a patent is an indicator that efforts at innovation have been successful and that an innovation had enough perceived value to justify the time and expense in procuring the patent.

Solar patents topped fuel cell patents for the first time in the second quarter of 2013, jumping 29 to 246 relative to the first quarter. Fuel cells edged solar by one patent during the first quarter thus the long quarterly reign of fuel cell patents - back to 2002 – has come to an end. Solar patents were up 35 compared to a year prior. Fuel cells (209) topped wind patents (141) by 68 patents, which dropped 14 relative to the first quarter and 46 versus a year before. Solar patents’ quarterly win makes clear that innovation in this sector continues at a rapid pace despite the failures and consolidations of solar firms across the board that dominate cleantech media reports.

2012 annual winner Toyota retook the quarterly crown from first quarter winner GM, with 48 clean energy patents in the second quarter thanks to its fuel cell (34) and hybrid/electric vehicle patents (13) - with the HEV total leading the quarterly field. GM followed by three but had more fuel cell patents (35) than any other in the second quarter. Twenty-two wind patents, one more than the first quarter, gave GE third place supplemented by three solar patents and one other patent. Samsung again had 22 granted clean energy patents edging Honda by two and Ford by nine. Samsung's total was fuelled by fuel cells (16), solar (5), and hybrid/electric vehicles (1). Honda had 13 fuel cell patents, five hybrid/electric vehicle patents, and one each in solar and ocean patents. Ford had two less HEV patents than Toyota and had one fuel cell and one biomass/biofuels patent.

Mitsubishi (12) trailed Ford by one granted clean energy patent and had patents in hybrid/electric vehicles (3), wind (8), solar (1) and ocean (1). Siemens tied Hyundai with 10 granted clean energy patents. Siemens had fuel cell (1) and HEV (9) patents while Hyundai scored in fuel cells (5), Hybrid/electric vehicles (4) and solar. Sunpower rounded out the top ten with 8 solar patents. It is interesting to note that despite there being more solar patents granted in the second quarter than the other technologies, among the top ten clean energy patent grantees, fuel cells outperformed solar by over five times, at 105 to 19, suggesting that it is not the large patent grantees, and by extension not the large corporations, driving the explosion in solar patents - but instead smaller patent grantees are driving this trend.


The CEPGI tracks the granting of U.S. patents for the following sub-components: solar, wind, hybrid/electric vehicles, fuel cells, hydroelectric, tidal/wave, geothermal, biomass/biofuels and other clean renewable energy.


Source: CEPGI


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