This bill, the Patents for Humanity Program Improvement Act, would strengthen incentives for innovators to use their talents to solve global humanitarian challenges by supporting the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office’s (USPTO) “Patents for Humanity” competition. This competition recognizes inventors who develop creative solutions to global humanitarian problems and awards inventors certificates for accelerated review of any future patents. Under this bill, the acceleration certificates granted under the Patents for Humanity competition would become transferable and the program would be codified into law.
What is House Bill H.R. 7259?
Cost of House Bill H.R. 7259
In-Depth: Sponsoring Rep. Lucy McBath (D-GA) introduced this legislation to strengthen incentives for innovators to use their talents to solve global humanitarian challenges through the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office’s (USPTO) “Patents for Humanity” competition:
“We must uplift those who use their skills to develop technology and ideas that benefit our world. The ‘Patents for Humanity Program’ is a wonderful example of this country coming together to solve problems that impact millions, and I’m proud that our bill strengthens that program while giving innovators more freedom to support one another.”
Original cosponsor Rep. Ben Cline (R-VA) adds:
“Applying for a patent is often an arduous process that discourages many from pursuing their talents. This legislation helps foster innovation and provides accelerated review of future patents so that inventors can more easily achieve their dreams.”
In April 2017, USPTO Attorney Advisor and Patents for Humanity Program manager Edward Elliott wrote that patents are important even for innovators who plan to give their technology away:
“We have found from our winners that patents can be very worthwhile, even for those who plan to give their technology away… [P]atents can help in securing funding, forming partnerships and attracting talent, particularly for small organizations. Patents also enable dual-licensing business models for technologies that have uses in both the developed and developing world. Under such models, the invention may be provided at affordable prices very close to the manufacturing cost in developing regions, while it is offered to consumers at standard commercial prices in advanced economies… In some models, sales from industrialized nations can be used to fund activities in developing regions. For more than 200 years, patents have supported technological and economic progress in industrialized nations. As we strive to bring the benefits of modern technology to the rest of humanity, patents continue to play an essential role in creating lasting solutions.”
This legislation has three bipartisan House cosponsors, including two Republicans and one Democrat. Last Congress, Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) introduced a version of this bill in the Senate with one cosponsor, Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA), and it didn’t receive a committee vote.
Of Note: Since 2012, the USPTO’s Patents for Humanity program has given 21 awards to a broad range of organizations, including small and medium-sized companies, startups, universities, and nonprofits. Any individual, corporation, nonprofit, small business, academic institution, or government agency who has applied for, owns, or licenses a U.S. patent is eligible to apply for the program.
Patents for Humanity winners are recognized in the fields of medicine, nutrition, sanitation, energy, and living standards; they receive an acceleration certificate to expedite patent application proceedings at the USPTO and public recognition of their accomplishment.
Past innovations recognized by the Patents for Humanity program include better ways to diagnose and treat HIV, malaria, tuberculosis, and other diseases; improved crop management; energy sources for those without access to reliable electric grids; and methods to preserve clean drinking water and improve sanitation.
Prior to the Patents for Humanity program’s inception, patent law blog PatentlyO contended that the U.S. patent system was an unintentional source of frustration to legislators due to the market-driven approach to innovation often steering focus away from humanitarian causes without a clear opportunity for financial gain.
- Sponsoring Rep. Lucy McBath (D-GA) Press Release
- U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) (Context)
- World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) Magazine (Context)
Summary by Lorelei Yang
(Photo Credit: iStockphoto.com / Bill Oxford)
Patents for Humanity Program Improvement Act
To allow acceleration certificates awarded under the Patents for Humanity Program to be transferable.
- Not enactedThe President has not signed this bill
- The senate has not voted
- The house has not votedIntroducedJune 18th, 2020