Applications will compete in four categories: Medical Technology, Food & Nutrition, Clean Technology, and Information Technology.  Applicants will select which category to enter, with the USPTO reassigning as needed.

Within each category, applications will choose to be judged on either humanitarian use or humanitarian research criteria, depending on the nature of their contribution.

Humanitarian use – applicants must demonstrate:

i)      Subject matter – the applicants’ technology that is claimed in a U.S. utility patent in force at the time or a pending U.S. utility patent application effectively addresses a recognized humanitarian issue;

ii)    Target Population – the actions described in the award application target an impoverished population affected by the humanitarian issue; and

iii)  Demonstrated Impact – the applicants’ actions have significantly increased application of the technology that benefits the impoverished population by addressing the humanitarian issue.

Humanitarian research – applicants must demonstrate:

i)      Research Impact – the applicants’ technology that is claimed in a U.S. utility patent in force at the time or  a pending U.S. utility patent application  has made a significant contribution to substantial research conducted by others which clearly targets a humanitarian issue;

ii)    Neglected Field – the research by others occurs in an area lacking significant commercial application; and

iii)  Contribution– the applicants took significant action to make the technology available to the other researchers.

A humanitarian issue is one significantly affecting the public health or quality of life of an impoverished population.  Whether a particular issue qualifies as humanitarian will be left to the judges' discretion.


The first 1,000 valid applications received will be considered by the judges.  Applications containing inappropriate material will be removed from consideration.

Each application will be reviewed by three judges working independently.  Judges will be chosen from academia.  Each judge will fill out a review form rating the application on the competition criteria.

A selection committee of Federal employees from various agencies and laboratories will recommend up to 50 winners based on the judges' reviews.  USPTO will make final awards based on the recommended list at an awards ceremony honoring the recipients.  The goal is to complete the judging process within 90 days of the application period close.

Three neutrality principles apply to the judging process.  First, evaluations are technology-neutral, meaning inventions from any field of technology which address the competition criteria will be considered.  Second, the program is geographically-neutral – the targeted impoverished population may be located anywhere in the world.  Finally, decisions will be financially-neutral so that any means of getting technology to those in need may qualify without regard to financial consideration.

Diversity of contributions will also be a consideration as the program seeks to highlight success stories across all types of technologies, organizations, and practices.


Winners will receive a certificate to accelerate a select matter before the USPTO.  Winners will also be honored at an awards ceremony at the USPTO, where they will receive public recognition for their efforts.

Certificates can be redeemed for any one eligible matter in the recipient's portfolio – it need not be related to the technology described in the Patents for Humanity application.  Certificates awarded in the pilot are not transferable to other parties.

Certificates may be redeemed to accelerate one of the following: an ex parte reexamination proceeding, including one appeal to the Board of Patent Appeals and Interferences (BPAI) from that proceeding; a patent application, including one appeal to the BPAI from that application; or an appeal to the BPAI of a claim twice rejected in a patent application or reissue application or finally rejected in an ex parte reexamination, without accelerating the underlying matter which generated the appeal.  Inter partes reexaminations and interference proceedings are not eligible for acceleration, nor are the forthcoming post grant reviews, inter partes reviews, derivation proceedings, or supplemental examinations.

For complete official rules, please see the pilot program notice published in the Federal Register.  Any discrepancies between the information here and in the notice will be resolved in favor of the notice.