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Rewarding Inventors Who Work to Solve Global Challenges

Today at the White House, United States Patent & Trademark Office Director Dave Kappos launched the Patents for Humanity pilot program, which creates business incentives for patent holders to engage in humanitarian issues.

Today at the White House, United States Patent & Trademark Office Director Dave Kappos launched the Patents for Humanity pilot program, which creates business incentives for patent holders to engage in humanitarian issues.  Under the new program, inventors who do the most to apply their technologies to pressing global challenges will be rewarded with a certificate that can be redeemed to accelerate a patent application, an appeal, or an ex parte reexamination proceeding before the USPTO.  The awardee may choose to accelerate any patent application in their portfolio, not just the humanitarian technology that qualifies for the award.

Through this initiative, the USPTO seeks to reward inventors who show that they have used their patented technologies to significantly address public health quality or to advance scientific research on neglected humanitarian issues.  Such technologies may include life-saving medicines and vaccines, medical diagnostic equipment, more nutritious or heartier crops, food storage & preservation technology, water sterilization devices, cleaner sources of household light and heat, or information devices promoting literacy and education, among others.  Awardees will be chosen by judges selected from academia for their expertise in medicine, law, science, engineering, public policy, or a related field.

Patent applicants can learn more about the new pilot program at

The Patents for Humanity pilot program was announced as part of a White House event highlighting a series of new initiatives to promote game-changing innovations to solve long-standing development challenges.  Answering President Obama’s call to harness science technology, and innovation to spark global development, the Administration announced initiatives from across the government to generate new development solutions through partnerships with the private sector, universities, and non-profits. 

Also at today’s event, Global Access in Action, in partnership with Baker & McKenzie, announced plans to develop and implement a program to educate patent holders and their lawyers about humanitarian use licenses for life-saving intellectual property.  Additionally, the American Bar Association is encouraging its members to help with the Patents for Humanity program.  The National Institutes of Health and the Department of Energy separately announced new programs to expedite and facilitate transfers of global health and clean energy technologies to not-for-profit institutions with demonstrated commitments to providing global access to technologies and services.  NIH also announced that it is joining with private sector partners to develop a free online database of disease data and information called Global Health Connect that will bring disparate databases and research together to accelerate the development of lifesaving treatments and combat the neglected tropical diseases that afflict the world's poorest people.  Along with its partners, USDA launched GRIN-Global, a plant genebank information management system that enables researchers to more efficiently source crop breeding material with specific traits.  USDA also announced a partnership with CABI Plantwise to increase food security by decreasing crop losses in 19 countries through Internet-connected “plant doctors.”

As President Obama explained in last month’s State of the Union: “Innovation is what America has always been about.”  This is especially true in the field of global development, where we are working with our partners in the private sector, universities, and non-profits to foster game-changing innovations with the potential to solve long-standing development challenges in health, food security, environmental sustainability, and broad-based economic growth.

Quentin Palfrey is Senior Advisor for Jobs & Competitiveness and Hillary Chen is Senior Advisor to the Deputy Director in the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy