Patents for Humanity Program Info

Patents for Humanity logo

2015 Award Ceremony Winners

2013 Award Winners


On this page:


The 2014 competition

On February 20, 2014, the Obama Administration announced the renewal of Patents for Humanity, the USPTO's annual award competition for innovators addressing global challenges. A pilot conducted in 2012-2013 gave ten awards and six honorable mentions to businesses, universities, and non-profits using patented technology to aid the less fortunate and reach underserved markets.

Details of the annual program and the 2014 competition were published in the Federal Register on Apr 3, 2014. Applications will be accepted from April 15 to Oct 31, 2014. The competition is structured very similar to the 2012-13 program. See below for more info.

US Navy Corpsman

U.S. Navy Corpsman examines a Haitian girl at a medical clinic.


How to Apply

Applications will be accepted from Apr 15 to Oct 31, 2014. Download and fill out one of the following application forms, depending on which set of judging criteria you want to apply under (see program details for more information):

The application portal for 2015 is not yet available.  We recommend waiting until the portal is up (link to be posted here) to submit your application.  Alternatively, you may email your completed application to

Eligibility - The competition is open to any patent owners, patent applicants, or patent licensees. Applicants may team together to submit a single joint application as long as at least one applicant meets the eligibility criteria. See the Federal Register Notice for details.


Join the Patents for Humanity Network

Help us spread the word about Patents for Humanity! Your support is critical for making this program a success.

Link to our web page and display the Patents for Humanity web banner (smaller version) in your website, blog, or email.


How it Works

Participating patent owners or licensees submit applications describing how they've used their patented technology or products to address humanitarian challenges for the less fortunate. Applications compete in five categories of global challenges:

  • Medicine - any medical-related technology such as medicines, vaccines, diagnostics, or medical devices
  • Nutrition - technologies which improve nutrition such as higher yield crops, more nutritious food sources, food preservation, storage, or preparation
  • Sanitation - improving lives by addressing environmental factors such as clean water, waste treatment, air pollution, and toxic substances
  • Household Energy - technologies providing power to energy-poor homes and communities for household needs like lighting, cooking, and heating
  • Living Standards - technologies that raise living standards to empower people to escape poverty, such as literacy, education, communications, information delivery, access to markets, and microfinance

Applications will be judged by one of the following sets criteria, depending on how their technology benefits the less fortunate.

Humanitarian Use is for those applying eligible technologies to positively impact a humanitarian issue, focusing on demonstrable real-world improvements:

  1. Subject Matter - the applicant's technology, which is claimed in a U.S. utility patent in force at the time or a pending U.S. utility patent application, effectively addresses a recognized humanitarian issue.
  2. Target Population - the applicant's actions target an impoverished population affected by the humanitarian issue.
  3. Contribution - the applicant took meaningful actions to make the technology more available for humanitarian uses. This only includes actions taken by the applicant.
  4. Impact - the applicant's contributions have significantly advanced deployment of the technology to benefit the target population. This includes downstream actions by third parties building on the applicant's contributions.

Humanitarian Research is for increasing the availability of patented technologies to other researchers for conducting research with a humanitarian purpose, particularly areas lacking commercial application:

  1. Subject matter - the applicant's technology, which is claimed in a U.S. utility patent in force at the time or a pending U.S. utility patent application, effectively supports research by others, e.g., as a tool or input.
  2. Neglected Field - the research by others clearly targets a humanitarian issue in an area lacking significant commercial application.
  3. Contribution - the applicant took meaningful actions to make the technology more available for research by others in the neglected field. This only includes actions taken by the applicant.
  4. Impact - the research by others has a high potential for significant impact on the neglected field. This includes downstream actions by third parties using the applicant's contributions.


Qualified judges from outside PTO will review and score the applications. USPTO will then forward the top-scoring applications to reviewers from participating Federal agencies to recommend award recipients.

For the 2014 competition, two types of awards will be made: Patents for Humanity Awards and honorable mentions.

The Patents for Humanity Award is the top award for applicants best representing the Patents for Humanity principles. Patents for Humanity Award recipients in 2014 will receive public recognition at an award ceremony sponsored by the USPTO. They will also receive a certificate to accelerate certain matters before the USPTO: a patent application, ex parte reexam, or an ex parte appeal to the Patent Trial and Appeal Board. Inter partes matters and other post-grant proceedings may not be accelerated at this time.

Honorable mentions in 2014 will receive accelerated examination of one patent application and a featured writeup on the USPTO website. A portion of honorable mentions may be awarded for the best up and coming technologies.

The USPTO expects to award roughly ten Patents for Humanity Awards and up to twenty honorable mentions in 2014. The exact number of awards may vary depending on the number and quality of program applications received. See the Federal Register Notice for more details on awards.


About the Program

For over two centuries, strong patents have provided business incentives that encourage technological progress to build our modern world. As we struggle to combat the issues plaguing the world's less fortunate, patents play an essential role in creating lasting solutions.

Patents for Humanity is USPTO's awards competition recognizing patent owners and licensees working to improve global health and living standards for the less fortunate. The program advances the president's global development agenda by rewarding companies who bring life-saving technologies to underserved people of the world, while showing how patents are an integral part of tackling the world's challenges.

There is no one-size-fits-all approach to the vast humanitarian challenges we face. Patents for Humanity seeks to recognize innovators of all shapes and sizes. Businesses and others are finding unique and creative ways to reach people in the developing world with sustainable solutions.

Highlighting success stories of humanitarian engagement that are compatible with business interests and strong patent rights demonstrates how companies can effectively contribute to global good while maintaining commercial markets.


More Information