USPTO Requesting Comments on Humanitarian Technologies

In case you missed it, on September 20 the United States Patent Office issued a request for comments on incentivizing humanitarian technologies and licensing through the intellectual property system.

 The USPTO is trying to incentivize humanitarian technologies by creating a “fast-track ex parte reexamination voucher pilot program.”  The program will give priority to humanitarian technology patents shortening the review process to six months.  The USPTO also hopes the program will reduce costs for humanitarian technology patents.

 The proposed legal standard the PTO will use to define “humanitarian use” and “humanitarian research” are as follows;

 “‘‘Humanitarian use’’ would comprise four principles: subject matter, effectiveness, availability, and access. In general terms, subject matter evaluates whether the patented technology addresses a recognized humanitarian problem. Effectiveness judges whether the technology can be used or is being used to address that issue. Availability determines whether the technology is available to an affected impoverished population. Access evaluates whether the applicant has made significant efforts to increase access to the technology among such populations.”

 “‘‘Humanitarian research’’ would comprise two principles: significance and access. Significance requires that the patented technology make a significant contribution to research on a problem that predominantly affects an impoverished population, such as the tropical diseases identified by the FDA in its priority review voucher scheme. Access determines that the patented technology was made available to researchers on generous terms. “

 The PTO asks comments to focus on the twelve questions found in the Request for Comment.    

 To make a comment to the USPTO on this issue send an email to


2 Responses

  1. Thanks for this great post. The info I have gained from your blog is truly encouraging

  2. While ethically laudable, this new proposed incentive program sounds largely like a PR ploy to improve the image of patent law. There are few ex parte reexaminations annually, so it likely wouldn’t have too much of a concrete effect on backlog issues. That being the case, I can’t imagine that this new initiative would do either much harm or much good. That said, I’m glad the USPTO and Obama administration are making an effort to bring humanitarian issues within the reach of patent law. However, I must confess that patent law expert Gene Quinn’s idea — patent term extensions “in exchange for the donation of humanitarian technologies” — sounds much more intriguing. It could be a powerful incentive that would satisfy both humanity’s “greed” and “good” genes at the same time, and I think that’s what’s needed.

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