Patents for Humanity
Today the USPTO announced the launch of an interesting voluntary pilot program called the Patents for Humanity Program. The program is an awards competition for patent owners and licensees who apply their patented technologies to address humanitarian needs.
Submissions will be accepted between March 1 - August 31, 2012, and application packets will become available for download and submission during the period. Applicants can describe how they have addressed humanitarian needs with their patented technology, and may submit images, videos, or web sites with their applications. Up to 50 winners will be selected in the first year of the pilot program. The entries will be judged by researchers from academia and federal labs donating their time in four categories: medical technology, food and nutrition, clean technology, and information technology. The judging period is from September 1 - December 31, 2012. The winners will receive certificates for accelerated processing of select patent USPTO matters.
As a background, the USPTO currently has an accelerated examination process in place, where certain applications can be “made special” by filing a petition. This simply means that the application is advanced “out of turn” for examination. There are several categories of special applications for which no fee is due with the petition, and there are some for which a fee is required and/or other requirements must be met. For example, no fee is required to make the application special where the inventor is 65 years or older or in poor health, or where the technology will materially enhance the environment, will contribute to the development or conservation of energy resources, or will contribute to countering terrorism. Some examples of categories of special application for which a fee and establishing various other facts are required include prospective manufacture of the invention applied for, recombinant DNA technology, prospective infringement of the pending claims, inventions dealing with HIV/AIDS, and superconductivity technologies.
The four categories of the Program do seem to share some overlap with the above categories of application eligible to be made special. For example, medical technology does appear to overlap with recombinant DNA and HIV/AIDS technologies, and clean technology appears to overlap with contributing to the development or conservation of energy resources.
The interesting thing about the Patents for Humanity Program is that the incentive it provides appears to be similar to the incentives already provided by the USPTO for certain classes of applications and applicants. Therefore, the Program’s impact in accelerating the above categories of applications which are otherwise eligible to be made special may be limited. However, because patentees and licensees of issued patents are eligible to win the competition, they may be able to use their certificates to accelerate the examination of their future or pending applications that may not be eligible to be made special otherwise.
It seems like an exciting program, and hopefully it will generate enough interest to become a permanent addition to accelerated processing of applications at the USPTO. For more information, see the video provided by the USPTO:
For further reading about the Patents for Humanity Program see:
Image by: Simon Howden (http://www.freedigitalphotos.net/images/view_photog.php?photogid=404)