Proposed Legislation Aims to Boost Patents for Humanity Program
Guest blog by Chief Policy Officer and Director for International Affairs Shira Perlmutter
As many of you know, the USPTO’s Patents for Humanity program—to incentivize the use of patented technologies that help alleviate poverty and suffering—has created quite a buzz. Since launching last February, we've generated interest from almost every imaginable patent sector, including the biotech, food, energy, and information technology industries, as well as universities, humanitarian nonprofits like the Gates Foundation and Doctors Without Borders, and also the media. Now we can add Congress to that list.
New legislation announced this week would build upon the prize competition by making the business incentives for using patented technology a reality. On Tuesday, Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Patrick Leahy of Vermont, along with Judiciary Committee Member Senator Christopher Coons of Delaware, introduced S. 3652, legislation that aims to bolster the USPTO’s Patents for Humanity initiative by making acceleration certificates awarded through the program transferable to third parties. If the bill is enacted, recipients of a Patents for Humanity award could sell their certificate on the open market, turning their good deeds into operating capital. At a time when our nation's small businesses identify access to capital as a top concern, this additional source of revenue can simultaneously strengthen our economy and improve lives around the globe.
Patents for Humanity is the USPTO's awards competition, recognizing those who apply patented technology to solving global challenges in health and standards of living. In the first six months of the program, we received 81 applications on technologies such as vaccines and medicines, diagnostic tests, nutrient supplements, improved crops, irrigation techniques, water sterilization, sanitation systems, patient care tracking, off-grid power generation, and mobile banking. Applicants range from garage inventors to multinational corporations, all focused on alleviating humanitarian suffering through groundbreaking new technology. Now in the selection phase, we expect to make awards to extraordinary applicants early next year.
On behalf of the USPTO, I would like to thank Chairman Leahy and Senator Coons for their ongoing support of our nation's intellectual property system and its potential to contribute to the greater good, all while supporting 40 million American jobs and $5 trillion of GDP. We look forward to working with Congress to strengthen the Patents for Humanity program.