Imagine a world in which the most innovative technologies spur economic growth and create jobs while also helping the world’s poorest populations. Mobile phone apps built for social networking would provide critical infrastructure to connect isolated markets. Advances in material sciences would be retooled to provide cost effective energy solutions for Americans struggling to pay their utility bills. Medical technologies would be adapted to meet the needs of people in developing countries.
To help make this dream a reality, the USPTO several months ago launched a prize competition — Patents for Humanity — to recognize individuals, universities and companies that have used their patented technologies for humanitarian purposes anywhere in the world. We will be taking submissions for our prize competition through the end of August.
President Obama delivers his State of the Union address, January 24, 2012.
In the annual State of the Union Address President Obama explained: “Innovation is what America has always been about.” Today the Obama Administration took major steps forward to collaboratively work with private industry to tap American ingenuity to assist in a world-wide humanitarian effort. The United States government will work with the private sector, universities, and non-profits to foster game-changing innovations with the potential to solve long-standing development challenges in health, food security and environmental sustainability.
I had the honor of being invited to the White House today for the Innovation for Global Development Event, which was held in support of the President’s commitment to using harness the power of innovation to solve long-standing global development challenges. As a part of this event, David Kappos, Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and the Director of the United States Patent and Trademark Office, launched a pilot program dubbed Patents for Humanity, which is a voluntary prize competition for patent owners and licensees. The pilot program seeks to encourage businesses of all kinds to apply their patented technology to addressing the world’s humanitarian challenges.
“When you consider the most significant problems facing our world today, such as health, the environment and our food supply, it is clear that biotechnology is uniquely positioned to uncover ground-breaking solutions,” said BIO President and CEO Jim Greenwood. “The Biotech Humanitarian Award offers us the opportunity to highlight our biotech innovators – the men and women who are pioneering real solutions to improve people’s lives and the health of our planet.”
Erik Iverson is is Associate General Counsel with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, working exclusively with Foundation’s Global Health initiate. He will be the keynote speaker at the BIO IP Counsels Committee Conference, which will be held in Seattle, Washington from April 13-15, 2011. As a prelude to his presentation at BIO Mr. Iverson agreed to go on the record with me. Part 1 of my interview with Mr. Iverson was published last week, and what appears below is the final segment of our discussion. We pick up with discussion of crowd sourcing techniques to enhance innovation and the humanitarian work of the Gates Foundation, as well as the humanitarian work of all those engaged in the life sciences, which Iverson says is “all about helping people and saving lives.”
Without further ado, part 2 of my interview with Erik Iverson.
QUINN: Yes and I certainly didn’t mean to mention open source in any kind of a pejorative way. And some times honestly I have referred to open source in pejorative terms because I think, in the software area particularly, it is not a very well defined business model. But one of the things I think open source and crowd sourcing perhaps and the combination of really tapping into a collective provides you, moving forward is the ability to get innovation up to a critical foundational level that can be used. And then have that foundation maybe in the public domain. And now that you’ve built it up through collaborative efforts, “You guys can run and do what you want with this as long as you core definable aspect maybe is available for the public.
IVERSON: Yes, I’ll give you an example of where we are doing that. And I must say, in my opinion that there is nothing pejorative about open source, it just depends upon how it is used and under what circumstance. As far as a crowd source goes, and I do like that term, one example of that is our CAVD, which is a collaboration for aids vaccine discovery and we launched that about 5 years ago. And what it consists of is originally 16 sets of grantees that have a large set of collaborators each. And the whole task of the CAVD is to further the development of HIV vaccine. One side doing T cell vaccines, the other doing antibody vaccines. But what we did is we funded centralized laboratories to conduct assays And then a central repository of tissue samples where everyone would deposit their samples and also be able to receive them.
Erik Iverson is Associate General Counsel with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, working exclusively with Foundation’s Global Health initiate. Mr. Iverson works with grantees in the development of intellectual property management plans, collaboration agreements and global access strategies with respect to the health solutions being funded by the Foundation. On Thursday, April 14, 2011, he will be the keynote speaker at the BIO IP Counsels Committee Conference, which will be held in Seattle, Washington from April 13-15, 2011. Mr. Iverson’s presentation at the BIO Conference is titled: “The Business Case for International Humanitarian Approaches to IP Management and Collaborations.” Several of my contacts at the Biotechnology Industry Organization (BIO) graciously put me in touch with Inverson and facilitated the coordination of an interview. The transcript of part 1 of the interview appears below.
In a nutshell, the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation is dedicated to bringing innovations in health, development, and learning to the global community. According to the Gates Foundation Global Health Program webpage the Global Health Program “harnesses advances in science and technology to save lives in poor countries.” The page goes on to explain: ” Where proven tools exist, we support sustainable ways to improve their delivery. Where they don’t, we invest in research and development of new interventions, such as vaccines, drugs, and diagnostics.” During our conversation Iverson and I talked about how the Gates Foundation seeks to incentivize innovators, as well as foster and respect intellectual property rights while at the same time engaging in what by its very nature is a humanitarian effort.
Without further ado, my part 1 of my interview with Erik Iverson.
On Monday, September 22, 2010, the United States Patent and Trademark Office announced via Federal Register Notice that the Office is considering pro-business strategies for incentivizing the development and widespread distribution of technologies that address humanitarian needs. One proposal being considered is a fast-track ex parte reexamination voucher pilot program to create incentives for technologies and licensing behavior that address humanitarian needs. Under the proposed pilot program, patent holders who make their technology available for humanitarian purposes would be eligible for a voucher entitling them to an accelerated re-examination of a patent. Given that patents under reexamination are often the most commercially significant patents, it is believed that a fast-track reexamination, which would allow patent owners to more readily and less expensively affirm the validity of their patents, could provide a valuable incentive for entities to pursue humanitarian technologies or licensing.