Civil Society comments on USPTO humanitarian priority review voucher proposal

On November 19, 2010, Knowledge Ecology International, Medecins Sans Frontieres/Doctors without Borders, Oxfam America and Public Citizen answered a Request for Comments from the US Department of Commerce on a proposal to “Incentivize Humanitarian Technologies and Licensing Through the Intellectual Property System”.

In a September 20, 2010 Federal Register Notice, the USPTO announced the US Government is considering creating a new incentive mechanism in the form of a pilot program to grant priority review vouchers for technologies and licensing behavior that address humanitarian needs. The vouchers would enable applicants to obtain an accelerated ex-parte re-­examination of any patent they own, or could be transferred on the open market

The joint Comments are available here and include nine main recommendation. The USPTO pilot should:

• Ensure policy coherence with U.S. global commitments on public health, innovation and intellectual property.
• Ensure that the incentive mechanism is designed to motivate innovation and dissemination of technologies responding to a wide range of diseases and health concerns.
• Ensure that the program provides significant incentives, potentially by limiting the number of vouchers provided, as with a prize.
• Ensure an effective accessibility and affordability strategy.
• Favor humanitarian open licensing and technology transfer practices that include a wide geographical scope, including all developing countries.
• Institute a system to meaningfully ascertain the humanitarian value of the technology and dissemination mechanisms.
• Ensure that the mechanism does not incentivize unnecessary patenting.
• Prevent abuses of a system established under the voucher program.
• Ensure continued transparency.