FLC News

USPTO Renews Patents for Humanity Program


Greetings from D.C. In 2012, the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) launched a novel pilot program named Patents for Humanity, designed to promote the use of patented technologies for humanitarian purposes. The program is an awards competition that recognizes patent owners and licensees working to improve global health and living standards around the world. Patents for Humanity “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.”

The program has been renewed, and is now soliciting applications for the 2014 competition—which is open to patent owners, applicants, or licensees. Applicants are asked to describe how their patented technology addresses humanitarian challenges in one of five categories: medicine (e.g., vaccines, diagnostics, medical devices), nutrition (e.g., crop yields, food sources, food preservation), sanitation (e.g., clean water, waste treatment, air pollution), household energy (e.g., lighting, cooking, heating), and living standards (e.g., literacy, education, access to markets).

The applications will be judged on two sets of criteria: those applying technologies to a specific humanitarian use or need, and those increasing the availability of technologies to other researchers who are conducting research for humanitarian purposes. Winners will be recognized at an awards ceremony, as well as receive the "prize" of being able to “accelerate certain matters before the USPTO” (e.g., a patent application, ex parte reexam, or an ex parte appeal to the Patent Trial and Appeal Board).

The 2012-2013 pilot—which focused on the categories of medicine, food and nutrition, clean tech, and info tech—resulted in ten winners from industry and academia. The winners, by category, were (from the website):

Medical - Medicines & Vaccines

  • Gilead Sciences - for making HIV drugs available to the world’s poor using a network of generics manufacturers in Asia and Africa.
  • University of California, Berkeley - for developing research and license agreements to provide a lower cost, more reliable way to produce anti-malarial compounds.

Medical - Diagnostics & Devices

  • SIGN Fracture Care International - for distributing low-cost fracture implants to speed healing in developing world hospitals.
  • Becton Dickinson (BD) - for creating a fast, accurate TB diagnosis machine and placing 300 systems in 22 high burden countries.

Food & Nutrition

  • DuPont Pioneer - for developing an improved strain of sorghum fortified with more protein and vitamins for use in sub-Saharan Africa.
  • Intermark Partners Strategic Management, LLP - for extracting edible protein and vitamins from waste rice bran in Latin America.

Clean Tech

  • Procter & Gamble - for distributing a small chemical packet that removes impurities and contaminants from drinking water and has purified nearly 5 billion liters worldwide.
  • Nokero - for delivering solar light bulbs and phone chargers for off-grid villages through local entrepreneurs.

Info Tech

  • Sproxil, Inc. - for deploying a system to identify counterfeit drugs with an ordinary cell phone in sub-Saharan Africa.
  • Microsoft Corporation - for providing machine learning tools that allow health researchers to better analyze large data sets.

Applications for 2014 will be accepted through September 15, 2015.

You can find more on the Patents for Humanity program from the USPTO or review the detailed Federal Register notice.

FLC News