Last month, the United States Patent and Trademark Office (“USPTO”) revealed it would be adding a new category to its Patents for Humanity Program (“Program”)—one that focuses on inventions relating to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Specifically, the category seeks to include innovators who employ cutting edge technologies to “track, prevent, diagnose, or treat COVID-19.”[1]

The Program is an awards competition that has existed since 2012 as the USPTO’s “top honor for patent applicants devising game-changing innovations to address long-standing development challenges.”[2] Prior to the USPTO’s decision to add a category for inventions specifically relating to COVID-19, the Program encompassed five categories: medicine, nutrition, sanitation, household energy, and living standards.[3] Winners of the Patents for Humanity Award receive public recognition of their work as well as a certificate entitling the winner to accelerate a single USPTO proceeding for an eligible matter—a patent application, an ex parte reexamination, or an ex parte appeal to the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB). With the enactment of the Patents for Humanity Program Improvement Act (“The Act”) on January 1, however, winners are now allowed to transfer these certificates to third parties and may do so for a profit.

As of April 5, the application period for the COVID-19 category of the Program officially opened. The Program is open to all types of licensees, patent applicants, and patent holders.

USPTO announces special Patents for Humanity COVID-19 category, United States Patent and Trademark Office ( (Apr. 5, 2021).


Patents for Humanity, United States Patent and Trademark Office (