USPTO Patents for Humanity Competition
It’s sometimes easy for us to forget just how good we have it. Regardless of the bills we need to pay, most of us have food on the table and a roof over our heads. Since you’re reading this online, we can assume you have access to the vast network of information and entertainment that enables us to perform electronic miracles every day in our work and personal lives. So, it can be a little hard to wrap our minds around the most recent United Nations data that says one billion people on Earth go hungry every day, that 900 million lack access to clean water, and that billions more people on this planet live in abject poverty without recourse to education, medical care or many other fundamental human services.[i]
While such overwhelming statistics make it hard to determine where to begin, standing by idly is not an option. Last February, the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) launched Patents for Humanity, a pilot program that creates business incentives for patent-holders to use their technology for humanitarian purposes. Conducted as a prize competition, Patents for Humanity invites applicants to submit entries that explain how they have applied their already-patented technology to alleviate human suffering. The competition is open to all inventors and businesses in the world, as long as they hold a U.S. patent on the technology they are submitting.
Entries are accepted in four categories—medical technology, food and nutrition, clean technology and information technology. The categories are intended to allow for a broad range of technologies that encompass a broad range of humanitarian needs. Examples may include medical diagnostic equipment, assistive devices, more nutritious or drought-resistant crops, water purifiers, cleaner sources of household heating and lighting, and software that promotes literacy and education. There are no restrictions on what technologies qualify, as long as applicants demonstrate how they are being used within one of those four categories, or how they contributes to important research in one of the four categories.
We must remember, too, that poverty and hardship exist in every country. Innovators who have helped to solve humanitarian problems in affluent nations are just as eligible and encouraged to enter as those working in undeveloped countries. Because suffering respects no geographic boundaries, Patents for Humanity has no geographic restrictions.
Up to 50 selected recipients will receive public recognition for their work, including an awards ceremony at the USPTO headquarters. In addition, winners will receive a certificate that allows them to accelerate the processing of a matter they have before the USPTO. This could be an application, appeal, or ex parte reexamination for any technology in the recipient’s portfolio. Judges for the competition are drawn from the academic world, selected for their expertise in the areas of medicine, law, science, engineering, public policy and other related fields.
For hundreds of years, patents have been one of the most powerful mechanisms for world progress. As the gateways of innovation, patent offices have a unique opportunity to assist inventors who use their technology to help alleviate humanitarian problems. With Patents for Humanity, the USPTO is taking up the challenge to make the world a better place. We hope independent inventors and small business owners will join us in our effort to make Patents for Humanity a successful initiative in improving living conditions around the world. If you are a patent-holder with a humanitarian mission, please apply for the contest. If you know someone who is, please tell them about the USPTO’s Patents for Humanity.
The deadline for submissions is August 30, 2012.
For more information about the Patents for Humanity program, visit www.uspto.gov/PatentsForHumanity.
To apply or see what others have submitted, please visit the Patents for Humanity application portal.