Patents for Humanity

Senators Leahy and Coons have introduced the Patents for Humanity Program Improvement Act of 2012 (S. 3652). The bill is relatively minor and will be an uncontroversial extension of the Humanitarian Awards Pilot Program created by the Patent Office earlier in 2012.

A bit of background, the Patents for Humanity program is an incentive program intended to encourage the use of patented technologies to help alleviate poverty and suffering. The incentive is a bit like the (perhaps outgoing) charitable donation tax break. However, instead of offering a direct monetary reward the PTO has offered an accelerated examination certificate. According to the implementation rules, the certificate can be used to accelerate either an ex parte reexamination proceeding (including an appeal to the Board) or else an appeal to the Board (PTAB) in an ordinary application or reissue. A group of designated experts will soon be selecting the first group of up to 50 winners.

It is a bit unclear what this acceleration certificate is worth, but at least several thousand dollars and perhaps more – especially for someone going through ex parte reexamination or reissue. However, there is no guarantee that the winner will have a need to use the certificate.

The legislation provides a mechanism for an award winner to turn the accelerated examination award into cash. In particular, statutory provision states that "A holder of an acceleration certificate issued pursuant to the Patents for Humanity Program … or any successor thereto … may transfer (including by sale) the entitlement to such acceleration certificate to another person."

Regarding the Bill, Director Kappos writes: "If the bill is enacted, recipients of a Patents for Humanity award could sell their certificate on the open market, turning their good deeds into operating capital."

In a press release associated with the Bill, Senator Leahy writes:

Following a Judiciary Committee hearing in June, I asked Director Kappos whether the program would be more effective, and more attractive to patent owners, if the acceleration certificate were transferable to a third party. He responded that it would, particularly for small businesses. The Patents for Humanity Program Improvement Act of 2012 simply makes these acceleration certificates transferable.

Director Kappos described the Patents for Humanity Program as one that provides business incentives for humanitarian endeavors. All Senators should support both the approach and the objective.

This bill is uncontroversial and has a strong likelihood of passage as long as Senator Leahy pushes it forward and Representative Lamar Smith agrees with its importance.

9 thoughts on “Patents for Humanity

  1. The patent system needs all the favorable PR it can get

    Agreed. But this is more like selling indulgences and very likely can end up in yet more unfavorable PR.

    The initial item is for a good cause. Making that vehicle alienable means that those with more money can make the initial item change into whatever the more moneyed entities what it to be – quite divorced from the initial good cause.

    Yet another tool for the wealthy in the Sport of Kings.

  2. On the contrary, this SINGS to the business world most in tune with who would pay for such a boondoggle.

    Sport of Kings has yet another new option.

  3. The patent system needs all the favorable PR it can get. Most of the attacks on the patent system are nonsensical, so why not a bit of nonsensical support, as long as there is not so much of it as to interfere with more important priorities?

  4. OED database was offline Thursday and Friday. How about taking this MASSIVE administrative waste and putting it somewhere where that amount of money would actually accomplish something?

    This just SINGS of being completely clueless about the patent and business world.

  5. Wow! – just wonderful, NOT. Now the poor and suffering get to deal with the hinderance of the patent drag.

  6. THIS idiocy is the best our senators can come up with? How about clarifying the vague grace period of the AIA before March 16 ??? How about upgrading the IT capabilities of the patent office so they can better access non-patent prior art ???

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  8. I wonder if the possibility of an accelerated reexam shortcircuiting a litigation is worth enough to incent large companies like Google or Apple to apply for the award. I’m sure Google & Apple have quite a bit of adaptive technology they’re working on.

    Somehow, given the low likelihood of winning and the overhead of applying for the award, I would be surprised if these awards went to small start-ups.

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