Remarks by Deputy Director Russ Slifer at the Patents for Humanity Awards Ceremony

Opening Remarks

Welcome, everyone, to the USPTO’s Patents for Humanity award ceremony.  I’m Russ Slifer, Deputy Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Deputy Director of the United States Patent and Trademark Office. We’re excited you’re here this morning to celebrate our third group of Patents for Humanity winners who have helped transform lives around the world.

Patents for Humanity is the USPTO’s top honor for innovators who use game-changing technology to meet global humanitarian challenges. Businesses and others are finding unique and creative ways to reach underserved markets. Their stories show that humanitarian engagement is compatible with business interests and strong patent rights, and that companies can effectively contribute to global good while maintaining commercial markets. Patents for Humanity submissions are evaluated on the effectiveness of their technology at addressing a humanitarian issue, on the contributions made by applicants to increase use of their technology among the impoverished, and on the impact those contributions have made to improve lives.

In addition to the recognition today, our four winners will receive an acceleration certificate to expedite some of their proceedings at the USPTO. Before we recognize our winners, I’d like to thank a few partners and supporters for their assistance with the Patents for Humanity program and today’s ceremony. None of this would be possible without them. First, I want to thank our speakers.

We are very honored to have Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro from Connecticut’s 3rd District here at today’s ceremony. We also have speakers representing the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, USAID, and our two program partners, the Association of University Technology Managers, or AUTM, and the National Inventors Hall of Fame. AUTM has been a tremendous help both in publicizing this program and in recruiting volunteers to serve as judges. Their Better World Project serves many of the same goals as Patents for Humanity, by publicizing ways that university research helps make all our lives better.  I’d also like to thank the National Inventors Hall of Fame for their support of the program and for providing the wonderful trophies that are being given out today. 

If you haven’t recently visited the National Inventors Hall of Fame Museum in our Alexandria headquarters, please do come by when you get a chance. It was recently remodeled, with all new exhibits that highlight the many pioneering innovators who have made our nation great. Finally, on a sad note, I’d like to mention that Robert Krebs of the NP Foundation passed away earlier this year. Robert was a partner in the Silicon Valley office of Nixon Peabody, whose tireless enthusiasm for Patents for Humanity led him to help create the non-profit NP Foundation to promote humanitarian assistance. With us today are Ron Lopez and other Nixon Peabody colleagues who are carrying on the work of the NP Foundation.

Now, I would like to introduce the Honorable Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro from Connecticut’s 3rd District who is uniquely positioned to join us today in celebrating the 2016 Patents for Humanities awards recipients.  Congresswoman DeLauro serves as the Co-Chair of the Democratic Steering and Policy Committee. She is the Ranking Member on the Labor, Health Services, and Education Appropriations Subcommittee and she also serves on the subcommittee that oversees the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, one of today’s Patents for Humanity awards recipients. The start-up GestVision, Inc., another of our awards recipients, hails from the Congresswoman’s district. Congresswoman DeLauro has served Connecticut’s 3rd District since 1991 and is a longtime advocate of working families. She is also interested in health policy issues, particularly woman’s health. The Congresswoman belongs to 62 House caucus groups and is the co-chair of the Baby Caucus, the Long Island Sound Caucus, and the Food Safety Caucus.

Please help me welcome Congresswoman DeLauro.

[DeLauro’s Remarks]

Thank you, Congresswoman.

I would like to turn this over to Edward Elliott, manager of the Patents for Humanity program at USPTO.

Closing Remarks

Thanks, Ed. Before we close today’s ceremony I want to recognize a few other people, starting with the two honorable mentions from this year’s Patents for Humanity competition.  Their projects show some very promising results, and we encourage them to apply again with further development of their innovations.

First we have Sanofi, the French pharmaceutical company. They are being recognized for their work researching new malaria drug candidates with shorter, simpler treatment regimens to improve patient outcomes and potentially counter the growing trend of drug resistance. Sanofi is our first repeat honoree, having received a Patents for Humanity award last year for their work producing artemisinin, an anti-malarial compound used in standard treatments.  This is also the third time a company based in France has been recognized in the Patents for Humanity program, making them the most awarded foreign nation. With us today from Sanofi we have Karine Vidal, Senior Patent Counsel, and Rita Merino, Head of the Ferroquine Project receiving this honor. We’re also pleased to have Mrs. Charlotte Beaumatin from the Embassy of France with us to celebrate Sanofi’s accomplishment. Mrs. Beaumatin is the Embassy’s Regional Counsellor for Intellectual Property at the Regional Economic Department.

If those representing Sanofi would please stand.

The second honorable mention goes to Alere, a medical diagnostic company headquartered in Massachusetts.  Alere is being recognized for developing diagnostic kits for detecting HIV early and quickly at the point of care in impoverished regions in Africa and Asia. Representatives from Alere were unable to make it to today’s ceremony.  Please join me in applauding Alere’s accomplishments.

I also want to thank our Patents for Humanity program manager, Edward Elliott, for all the great work he has done these past few years to make this program such an enduring success.

And although they’re not here with us, I want to thank the hard-working patent examiners who reviewed these patents. When you get a chance visit our National Inventors Hall of Fame Museum, be sure to read the display that describes our examiners as the “guardians of innovation”. It says it all.

Altogether the work of our Patents for Humanity applicants and awardees proves that great things that can be accomplished when IP rights and innovation work together to solve problems of a truly global scope. In addition to the very tangible benefits their inventions will deliver, they will also inspire others to bring the power of innovation to bear on more of the world’s most pressing humanitarian challenges.  

At the USPTO, we get inquiries all the time from inventors hoping to follow our winners’ examples. That’s the difference Patents for Humanity and its award winners are making in the world—not just innovating, but inspiring and leading by example. So I’d like to congratulate all of you for being a part of that great and noble effort. You are all truly amazing innovators. The benefit of the work you’ve done is incalculable. Your ground-breaking efforts are making a difference in the lives of millions of people around the world. And the example you have set will inspire and guide countless more innovators. Thank you all for coming today.