Canada: Boom In Hydrogen Technology: Patents Fueling Later-Stage Investments, Recent Report Finds – Bennett Jones LLP


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A recent report—jointly published by the International
Energy Agency (IEA) and the European Patent Office
(EPO)—earlier this year (Joint Report),1
highlights the growing number of patent filings in the hydrogen
sector. A key finding is that more than 80 percent of later-stage
investment in hydrogen start-ups go to companies which have already
filed a patent application, thereby indicating the importance of
patenting for early-stage companies operating in this sector.

To that end, the Joint Report finds increasing relevance in view
of the unprecedented progress hydrogen technology has shown in
leading the global movement towards a clean energy future. In only
the past few months, several Canadian provinces (including
Alberta2 and Ontario3), have committed
millions of dollars to catalyzing innovation in the hydrogen space.
The Federal Government of Canada previously launched its
“Hydrogen Strategy for Canada” to position Canada as an
international leader in the production and use of clean

Below, we summarize key findings of the Joint Report. We also
highlight how various patent offices around the world incentivize
the filings of clean technology (cleantech) patent applications,
which can include applications relating to hydrogen innovation. As
explained below, Canadian companies operating in the hydrogen space
should consider leveraging government incentives to develop and
build a robust patent portfolio. In addition to protecting their
intellectual property rights, doing so may also drive necessary

Key Findings of Joint Report by IEA and EPO

The Joint Report of the IEA and EPO finds that patent protection
offers a critical tool for innovators to transform hydrogen
research into market-ready inventions.

The Joint Report analyzed patent trends in the hydrogen
technology sector, including patenting of inventions relating to
production, storage, distribution, transformation, and end-use of
hydrogen.5 The study covered the period between 2011 and

Key findings of the Joint Report included the

  1. Patenting underpins fundraising by start-ups developing
    hydrogen businesses, with more than 80 percent of later-stage
    investment in hydrogen start-ups going to companies which had
    already filed a patent application, indicating the importance of
    patenting for early-stage companies in this sector.

  2. About half of international patent families (IPFs) in hydrogen
    technologies, in the study period, related to hydrogen production.
    Other IPFs were split between end-use applications of hydrogen, and
    technologies for the storage, distribution and transformation of

  3. New hydrogen patenting heavyweights are companies in the
    automotive and chemical sectors, which focused their innovations on
    electrolysis and fuel cell technologies.

  4. While hydrogen production remains almost entirely fossil
    fuel-based, patenting has already seen a major shift towards
    alternative, low-emission methods. This shift anticipates a boom
    for electrolyser technologies.

  5. Patenting activities, targeting improvements in existing
    technologies for the storage of hydrogen and the production of
    ammonia and methanol, grew steadily between 2001 to 2020.

  6. Patenting activities for hydrogen use in the automotive sector
    continued to expand at much higher rates than for other end-use

The Joint Report therefore underscores the rising importance of
patents for hydrogen innovation, as well as the diversity of
hydrogen innovations being patented.

Global Patent Offices Incentivizing Filing of Cleantech

As noted above, Canadian companies should take note that patent
offices around the globe offer incentives for filing of cleantech
patent applications, including applications covering
hydrogen-related innovations.

The following are a few example incentives offered by some
patent offices:

  • Canada: Canada provides an expedited examination process for
    patent applications relating to green technologies, at no
    additional cost. Under this program, a first correspondence from
    the patent office can be expected within three months of
    filing.7 This is compared to over 12 – 14 months
    in the usual course.

  • United States (U.S.): The U.S. offers a similar program under
    its “Climate Change Mitigation Pilot Program”, to allow
    for expedited examination of green technology patent applications.
    The program was expanded on June 6, 2023, to involve patent
    applications involving technologies that reduce, remove, prevent,
    and/or monitor greenhouse gas emissions.8

  • Australia: Expedited examination is offered by Australia for
    green technologies, or otherwise, “environmentally-friendly

  • China: Expedited examination is also offered in China for
    patent applications that relate to energy conservation and
    environmental protection, as well as for new energy, new materials
    and new energy vehicles.10

Accordingly, Canadian companies operating in the hydrogen space
should consider developing a robust patent portfolio for the
purposes of fostering investments, among other things. To that end,
various government incentives may be available for such






5. “Hydrogen patents for a clean energy future
– A global trend analysis of innovation along hydrogen value
chains (Key Findings)” (January 2023),well%20as%20end%2Duse%20applications

6. Ibid.





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