Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and Committee member Senator Chris Coons (D-Del.) reintroduced legislation Thursday that encourages the use of patented technology to address humanitarian needs. The bill strengthens an awards program created last year by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), the Patents for Humanity Program, which recognizes patent holders who use their technology to improve the quality of life in impoverished countries.
Leahy also joined with Acting USPTO Director Teresa Stanek Rea today to recognize the first award-winners under the Patents for Humanity initiative. For their work, recipients of this award are granted faster processing of certain USPTO matters.
"In my time in the Senate, I have worked to promote policies that encourage intellectual property holders to apply their work to address global humanitarian challenges," said Leahy, who with Coons introduced similar legislation last year. "Today, I am pleased to join with Senator Coons in reintroducing the Patents for Humanity Program Improvement Act to again advance such policies."
Coons said "The Patents for Humanity program is a terrific opportunity for enterprising innovators to make a real difference in the world."
"As we continue the important task of modernizing our nation's patent system, this bill would expand the program's value by incentivizing first-time inventors and researchers to confront the humanitarian challenges of our time," Coons added. "I thank Chairman Leahy for his sustained leadership on this and other intellectual property issues, and look forward to working with him to help this good idea become law."
Statement Of Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.),
Chairman, Senate Judiciary Committee,
On Introduction of the Patents for Humanity Program Improvement Act of 2013
April 11, 2013
The American intellectual property system is rightly held as the global standard for promoting innovation and driving economic growth. This is particularly true of our patent system, which was recently updated and strengthened for the 21st century by the Leahy-Smith America Invents Act. The fundamental truth that our Founders recognized more than 200 years ago -- that limited exclusive rights for inventors incentivize research and development -- continues to benefit consumers and the American economy at large.
These limited rights can also be applied to incentivize research and discoveries that advance humanitarian needs. In my time in the Senate, I have worked to promote policies that encourage intellectual property holders to apply their work to address global humanitarian challenges. Today, I am pleased to join with Senator Coons in reintroducing the Patents for Humanity Program Improvement Act to again advance such policies.
This legislation improves on a program created by the United States Patent and Trademark Office ("PTO") last year. The PTO's Patents for Humanity Program provides rewards to selected patent holders who apply their technology to a humanitarian issue that significantly affects the public health or quality of life of an impoverished population. Those who receive the award are given a certificate to accelerate certain PTO processes.
This year, the innovations that received awards touched on critical areas that will help improve the quality of life for people throughout the world. Award winners worked to improve the treatment and diagnosis of devastating diseases, improve nutrition and the environment, and combat the spread of dangerous counterfeit drugs. These are innovations that will make a real difference in the lives of people in the developing world and elsewhere.
Following a Judiciary Committee hearing last year, I asked PTO Director Kappos whether the Patents for Humanity program would be more effective, and more attractive to innovators, if the acceleration certificates awarded were transferable to a third party. He responded that it would, and that it would be particularly beneficial to small businesses. The Patents for Humanity Program Improvement Act makes these acceleration certificates transferrable. It is a straightforward, cost-neutral bill that will strengthen this useful program.
When Congress can establish policies that provide business incentives for humanitarian endeavors, it should not hesitate to act. I urge the Senate to work swiftly to pass this legislation.