September 20, 2010
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Press Release, 10-41
USPTO Launches Effort to Incentivize Humanitarian Technologies
New initiative encourages businesses to develop and disseminate
technologies that address humanitarian needs
Washington – Under Secretary of Commerce and Director of the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) David Kappos announced today that the USPTO is seeking public comments on proposals to incentivize the creation and wider distribution of technologies that address humanitarian needs. Under a proposed pilot program, patent holders who make their technology available for humanitarian purposes would be eligible for a voucher entitling them to an accelerated re-examination of a patent.
Among the technologies which address humanitarian needs that would be eligible for the program are treatments for tropical diseases, diagnostic medical tools, crops with higher yields or better nutritional value, and treatments for sanitation or clean water. Participants could qualify for the proposed pilot in two ways: by making their patented technologies available to impoverished populations for humanitarian use, or by making their patented technologies available to researchers who are developing technologies that address humanitarian needs.
Under the proposed pilot program, patent holders who disseminate their patented technologies for humanitarian purposes would qualify for a fast-track ex parte re-examination voucher. Because patents under re-examination are often among the most commercially valuable patents, fast-track re-examination of a patent allows a patent owner to affirm the validity of his or her patent more quickly and less expensively. This voucher could then be used on any patent owned by the patent holder or transferred on the open market.
“A voucher for fast-track re-examination of a patent is a valuable incentive for entities to distribute humanitarian technologies through licensing or other means,” Kappos said. “Our hope is that this new program will incentivize innovators to develop technologies that will benefit those in need.”
The program seeks to increase the diffusion of technologies that address humanitarian needs through market forces. Existing technologies often do not reach impoverished populations. The humanitarian fast-track voucher provides patent holders with a significant incentive to distribute their technology more widely to such groups. It also creates an incentive to provide patented technologies for humanitarian research, which in turn may spur the development of new technologies to address humanitarian needs.
The USPTO seeks cooperation with industry, government, the humanitarian aid community, academic researchers, and the public to create a successful program. This is the first step in a broader effort to develop business-friendly strategies that encourage inventions to address humanitarian needs.
Further information about the proposed fast-track ex parte re-examination voucher pilot program can be found in the Federal Register notice at http://edocket.access.gpo.gov/2010/pdf/2010-23395.pdf.