12.16.20

Patents For Humanity Legislation, Championed By Leahy And Grassley, Passes Senate Unanimously And Heads To President’s Desk For Signature

. . . Bill Would Codify Program That Encourages And Rewards Use Of Patented Technology To Tackle Humanitarian Needs

WASHINGTON (WEDNESDAY, Dec. 16, 2020) -- The Patents for Humanity Program Improvement Act, authored and long championed by Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and Senator Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa), passed the Senate unanimously on Tuesday night.  This bipartisan bill encourages and rewards the use of patented technology to address humanitarian needs.

Patents for Humanity is the United States Patent and Trademark Office's (USPTO) awards competition which recognizes innovators who use game-changing technology to meet global humanitarian challenges.  Winners of the program receive a certificate to accelerate certain processes at the USPTO; for example, accelerated review of another application or reexamination request.  This legislation would codify the program and allow winners to transfer these certificates to a third party, which the USPTO and small start-up companies have long said will help this vital program grow and even attract small inventors who might not use the certificates themselves. 

The Patents for Humanity program has already made a critical difference across the world.  Winners have worked to improve nutrition, provide clean drinking water and sanitation, fix broken bones in remote hospitals that lack x-ray technology, bring solar-powered energy to villages that are off the power grid, and combat the problem of dangerous counterfeit drugs, among other achievements.  Leahy and Grassley both spoke at the virtual 2020 awards ceremony.  Details on the 2020 award winners can be found here.

Leahy and Grassley have introduced similar legislation in the past, and in the 114th Congress the bill passed the Senate unanimously.  In this Congress, for the first time, an identical bill was introduced in the House of Representatives, led by Rep. Lucy McBath (D-Ga.), which passed the House by voice vote in June.  This legislation passed the Senate by unanimous consent Tuesday night, and the bill will now make its way to President Trump to be signed into law.

Leahy said:  “We are now one step closer to codifying and improving the Patents for Humanity program, which has a proven track record of addressing some of the most pressing global needs.  The program illuminates our commitment to be the example for the world in intellectual property, and I’m hopeful the President will quickly sign this legislation into law.”  Leahy added, “I am also thankful for Senator Grassley’s partnership on this issue over the years, and I also want to also thank Congresswoman Lucy McBath for leading the House companion legislation, as well as USPTO Director Andre Iancu for his support for the legislation and his commitment to this program.”

Grassley said:  “American innovators are not only a driving force behind our economy, their work product often helps to make the world a better place. By enhancing the Patent and Trademark Office’s Patents for Humanity program, this legislation will incentivize and reward innovators for using their talents to help individuals and communities in need across the globe. Having passed the House and now the Senate, I look forward to this bill’s quick enactment into law.”

Additional background on the USPTO Patents for Humanity Program is available online.  Text of the Leahy-Grassley bill is also available online.

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Press Contact

David Carle (w/Leahy), 301-872-0665

Taylor Foy (w/Grassley), 202-224-6708