As world leaders prepare to meet in New York City for the 2010 Annual Meeting of the Clinton Global Initiative  to discuss ways to solve the critical challenges that face our world, the Commerce Department’s U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has launched an effort to incentivize the creation and distribution of technologies that address humanitarian needs both domestically and internationally.
The USPTO is seeking comments on a proposed  pilot program that would allow patent holders who make their technology available for humanitarian purposes to be eligible for a voucher entitling them to an accelerated re-examination of a patent.Because patents under re-examination are often among the most commercially valuable patents, fast-track re-examination of a patent allows a patent owner to affirm the validity of his or her patent more quickly and less expensively. This voucher could then be used on any patent owned by the patent holder or transferred on the open market.
Technologies that address humanitarian needs among impoverished populations, such as treatments for tropical diseases, diagnostic medical tools, crops with higher yields or better nutritional value, and treatments for sanitation or clean water, would be considered eligible for the program. Participants could qualify for the proposed pilot in two ways: by making their patented technologies available to impoverished populations for humanitarian use, or by making their patented technologies available to researchers who are developing technologies that address humanitarian needs.