Kate Mackenzie Clean tech patent numbers dip in Q1

The number of clean energy patents granted fell slightly in the first quarter of 2009, but was still higher than a year earlier.

The index, published by law firm Heslin Rothenberg Farley & Mesiti P.C.’s Cleantech Group, shows the number of clean energy patents fell in the first quarter, by almost 7 per cent to 243. However is higher than Q1 2008, which saw 220 patents granted.

Interestingly few of the categories show a strong trend during the period apart from wind (the dark blue line) and extremely erratic growth in fuel cell patents.  The number of patents granted in any given period is small and volatility is high; the lowest volume such as tidal and geothermal are mostly in the low single digits each quarter. Full charts for each can be found on the CEPGI blog.

But what does it tell us? As they note, the number of successful patent applications could indicate the level of inventive activity and the effectiveness of R&D efforts – and indeed the fall-off may tie in with reports from New Energy Finance last week suggesting Q1 was the low point of investment in the industry, as financing and investment appear to have picked up since the end of last quarter.

Car companies tend to top the list and this quarter Honda took the lead from GM, with 23 patents. GM and Toyota tied for second place with 13.

Panasonic popped into fourth place with 12 patents – 10 for fuel cells – and Cleantech Group says this more than they filed six for the entire 2002 – 2008 period.

Related story:

Positive news for renewables: financing begins to return (FT Energy Source, 05/06/09)