All you need to know about Power-to-X patents

Companies and governments currently invest billions of dollars in Power-to-X and other green technologies. In this article, you will find advice on what to do when you want to patent a Power-to-X technology.

Patent applications for green technologies have surged in recent decades and both politicians and companies are falling over one another to plan the next big strategy or investment in the field. One of the more tangible examples of this development is the pledge for a billion-dollar energy island in the Danish part of the North Sea, which will transform and store green electricity produced from offshore wind turbines through the use of Power-to-X from 2030.

Power-to-X is an umbrella term covering technologies that transform green energy produced from renewable sources into hydrogen, gasses, chemicals or other hydrogen-based products. In this way, the green energy can be utilized for various purposes.

One of the better-known Power-to-X technologies is Power-to-Hydrogen, which utilizes green energy produced from renewable sources such as offshore wind turbines or solar cells and splits water molecules (H2O) into hydrogen (H2) and oxygen (O2) through the process of electrolysis. Converting electricity into hydrogen makes it possible to store the renewable energy for later use or to turn the hydrogen into climate-friendly fuels, known as e-fuels. Power-to-X technologies can thus ensure that the world always has access to renewable energy and assist in phasing out fossil fuels.

“Luckily, there’s widespread agreement that it’s necessary to phase-out fossil fuels more or less completely in the future, as they significantly impact the ongoing climate changes. This is one of the reasons why developments within the field of Power-to-X have picked up speed in recent years. It is simply not possible to achieve the climate targets without the use of Power-to-X technologies. I therefore expect to see a large number of Power-to-X patent applications and patents in the near future,” says Mie Haslund, patent attorney at Plougmann Vingtoft with extensive technical knowledge about Power-to-X.

Timing is everything

If you are looking to protect your Power-to-X-related invention, there are a series of challenges you must account for. The enormous competition and the many investments currently being made makes it increasingly demanding to develop something patentable within the field of Power-to-X, as many others are currently working on similar solutions. Since two of the requirements for obtaining a patent are that your invention is both new and inventive, it is important that your contribution differs significantly from what has already been made public. Meanwhile, it can be a costly affair to venture into the world of patents, and it is therefore crucial to time the patent application exactly right.

“Timing is everything when applying for a Power-to-X patent. It’s a tough balancing act as it’s often necessary to be able to show off one’s technology early in the development process, but doing so is not an option if you seek to patent the technology and have yet to submit your application. Publishing your technology too early can thus destroy any possibility of patenting it later on,” says Mie Haslund and adds:

“Conversely, it’s important not to submit a patent application prematurely in the development process, as you run the risk that the final technology no longer fits within the scope of your patent application. It is therefore crucial to get advice on when the most optimal time is to submit a patent application that is also broad enough to allow for future developments.”

She gives the following advice for people looking to patent a Power-to-X technology:

1. Conduct a novelty and patentability assessment

When looking to protect your technology, the most important factor is that the invention is both novel and sufficiently innovative. Whether the invention meets these requirements can be assessed by a patent expert with technical knowledge of the matter, who is able to conduct a patentability assessment through a novelty search. Alternatively, it is possible to do the initial parts of this research yourself, for example by searching on google and in available scientific articles. But it is important to seek professional help from a patent attorney to get a complete overview.

2. File a patent application

If the patentability assessment is positive, the next step is to write and submit a patent application. Doing so allows you to finally show off your invention, which is often necessary prior to raising funds or scaling up production.

Once you submit a patent application, often either a national or European application, you have 12 months to decide whether to also protect your idea in other parts of the world. If you decide to pursue international protection, you have 30 months to decide on which countries to file in. The Patent Cooperation Treaty (PCT) gives you 153 countries to choose from. This scheme is particularly beneficial to smaller companies, as it allows you to achieve a relatively inexpensive, yet potentially broad geographical protection for 30 months before finally selecting specific countries of protection.

3. Conduct an FTO (Freedom-To-Operate)

While your idea may be patentable, there are no guarantees that your invention does not infringe another, already issued patent. If you want to make sure that it is also possible to use your invention in practice without infringing someone else’s patent, you should conduct a Freedom-to-Operate analysis (FTO). An FTO is often conducted by a patent attorney, as their experience ensures that your invention does not infringe on another patent, thus avoiding a potentially damaging lawsuit.

The decision of when to conduct an FTO is often a matter of the company’s finances and patent strategy. It is both possible to conduct an FTO before and after submitting a patent application. Further, it may also be necessary to conduct multiple FTOs if your invention develops significantly.

Plougmann Vingtoft employs a large number of specialists working within Power-to-X technologies, which is necessary to understand both the technologies and the market. No matter which Power-to-X technology you are working with, you can be sure to get a patent attorney that is able to advise you.

If you want to know more about your possibilities of obtaining a patent within Power-to-X or another industry, you are always welcome to contact one of our experts. You can also reach us via this contact form.