Patents for Humanity – New USPTO Humanitarian Initiative

Posted on by bmiller

On Wednesday I watched as David Kappos announced the USPTO’s new humanitarian initiative – Patents for Humanity.

“Innovation is 99% about failure, which is expensive,” Kappos said. He’s completely right.

It is difficult to disseminate knowledge due to the high costs associated with the current patent system. The barriers of entry – both time and monetary – mean that many innovations go unprotected. It requires significant investments, in our current system, to protect technologies.

To mitigate this issue, Kappos calls for an improved flow of innovation to those in need using the patent system and the USPTO’s Patents for Humanity pilot program. The new program incentivizes patent holders to engage in humanitarian issues.

Under Patents for Humanity, inventors who do the most to apply their technologies to pressing global challenges, such as access to mobile technology and medicines, will be rewarded with a voucher that can be redeemed to accelerate a patent application, an appeal, or an ex parte reexamination proceeding before the USPTO.

As a Center for Applied Innovation Fellow, I helped coordinate two related events last January – the LESI Global Technology Impact Forum (GTIF), and the Invent for Humanity™ Technology Transfer Exchange Fair.

These events were developed to address and promote IP licensing and technology transfer for the betterment of mankind – an issue many organizations are becoming more aware of on a daily basis.

Edward Elliott, Expert Advisor, Office of Policy and External Affairs for the USPTO, attended these events and presented an early look at the Patents for Humanity program at GTIF. Edward’s presentation was given as part of a panel session focusing on the diffusion of technology to developing nations.

Along with Patents for Humanity, initiatives and tools for furthering tech transfer for development were presented by Global Access in Action, the International Chamber of Commerce, the World Intellectual Property Organization, General Electric, the World Health Organization, and Qualcomm.

Clearly this challenge is both important and timely.

In addition to Patents for Humanity, other initiatives were featured:

  • New model licensing agreements from the National Institutes of Health and Department of Energy
  • Training lawyers on how to include humanitarian use in technology contracts by Global Access in Action

It is important to realize that, when it comes to sustainable global development, innovation is the easy part.

Reaching scale and diffusing technologies, through infrastructure, distribution, awareness, training and affordability, is the difficult part.