[Ip-health] KEI, MSF, Oxfam and PC provide continued comments on USPTO humanitarian priority review voucher proposal

Krista Cox krista.cox at keionline.org
Thu Jul 14 20:11:42 PDT 2011

Full comments are available for download here:

USPTO is currently considering a pilot program to grant priority review
vouchers as an incentive mechanism for technologies or licensing that
responds to humanitarian needs. KEI, MSF, Oxfam and PC previously submitted
comments on November 19, 2010 and provided additional comments on March 4,
2011 with UAEM.

On July 13, 2011, KEI, MSF, Oxfam and PC responded to two questions recently
posed by UPSTO on its proposed pilot program. These questions related to the
publicity value of the awards and transferability of the vouchers. The
comments submitted by these civil society organizations are available here.

July 13, 2011

The undersigned organizations would like to express our appreciation to
USPTO for the continued opportunity to comment on the proposed program to
“Incentivize Humanitarian Technologies and Licensing through the
Intellectual Property System.” We previously submitted comments on this
proposed pilot program on November 19, 2010 and on March 4, 2011.

The USPTO has further contacted us with the following questions:

“1. We really want to maximize the publicity value of the awards. This
advances a major goal of the program: showcasing positive examples of patent
holders addressing humanitarian issues without sacrificing commercial
markets. To this end, we're considering making awards once a year instead of
twice. This should increase the splash factor.

2. Because this is a new area for USPTO, we respect stakeholders' concerns
and want to proceed cautiously. One option would be to offer a
non-transferrable voucher incentive that recipients can use to accelerate
their own patent cases, but not transfer to others.

How much would either of these changes affect your interest or ability to
participate in the program?"

As we addressed in our previous comments, we are supportive of USPTO's
efforts to introduce innovative incentive mechanisms to promote the
development and widespread distribution at affordable prices of technologies
that address the needs of people living in developing countries.

In order to ensure the effectiveness of this program, we believe that it is
important that the proposed vouchers have significant economic value and
that they create incentives for truly humanitarian initiatives. The
mechanism should therefore limit the number of vouchers awarded and allow

Number of prizes granted & minimum standards

We have no common view on the timing of the voucher awards.

We do have a common view that the number of vouchers awarded each year
should be limited.

As we detailed in earlier submissions, we support a system where the
applications for vouchers must meet minimum public interest standards. In
the event that none of the applications meet the minimum standards in a
given year, USPTO should not be mandated to grant a voucher and the
competition should be considered deserted. Only deserving applicants whose
proposals are truly responsive to the needs of developing countries and
disadvantaged populations should be awarded a voucher. For example, the
promotion of a new medical technology that is not affordable or not adapted
to the medical and operational needs of people in developing countries
should not be considered as deserving the voucher.

By limiting the number of vouchers and awarding them only to truly
meritorious applications, the USPTO will increase the humanitarian impact of
the program..

Transferability of Vouchers

In order to enhance the value of the voucher and the impact of the proposed
program, the USPTO should make the voucher transferable. If the winners are
able to transfer the voucher, the economic value of the award will clearly
be higher to almost all applicants than if they are required to use the
voucher for their own patents. If the program does not allow for
transferability, the vouchers are also more likely to be valuable to big
entities than to small entities. The USPTO incentive mechanism should
stimulate licensing activities by both large and small entities. Some have
proposed to limit transferability across sectors or technologies. This may
be appropriate, if there is evidence that it would avoid the gaming of the

USPTO should also consider allowing the program to be used to initiate third
party reexamination. Expanding the program in this manner could increase the
value and usefulness of the vouchers, attracting bidders who might want to
advance their own cases or to challenge a particular patent.

Finally, we would like to encourage the USPTO to continue designing these
mechanisms and implementing it with high levels of transparency and public
participation, while avoiding conflicts of interest.

We would like to reaffirm our support for USPTO’s efforts to implement a
pilot program to incentivize humanitarian technologies and licensing and
appreciate the continued opportunity to provide feedback.


Knowledge Ecology International (KEI)

Doctors Without Borders/Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF)

Oxfam America

Public Citizen

Krista Cox
Staff Attorney
Knowledge Ecology International
(202) 332-2670

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