Washington – The U.S. Department of Commerce’s United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) today announced the start of two new regional pro bono patent programs in California and the District of Columbia—the result of the USPTO’s cooperative efforts with the California Lawyers for the Arts and the Federal Circuit Bar Association (FCBA).
The California program, run by California Lawyers for the Arts, will provide legal assistance to individuals and businesses throughout the region that might otherwise be unable to afford solid patent protection. The FCBA’s program will provide services to individuals and businesses in the Commonwealth of Virginia, the State of Maryland, and the District of Columbia.
“With these programs, qualifying independent inventors will have greater access to intellectual property counsel,” said Under Secretary for Intellectual Property and USPTO Director David J. Kappos. “The inventors stand to benefit from the improved access, and our examiners benefit by receiving better quality applications that they can examine more efficiently and effectively.”
The America Invents Act, signed into law by President Obama last year, tasked the USPTO to partner with intellectual property (IP) law associations and others to establish pro bono programs for financially under-resourced independent inventors and small businesses. The primary role of the USPTO in these partnerships is to offer insight, guidance, and training assistance to help lawyers provide the best possible IP legal advice to their clients.
This week, the FCBA also assumed the role as the “National Clearing House” for pro bono patent assistance, serving America’s innovator community by collecting information from interested individuals and businesses, providing an initial eligibility screening based on financial need and other factors, and forwarding the information on eligible applicants to a regional pro bono organization so a suitable attorney can be matched with the applicant.
The USPTO will assist partners like the FCBA and state IP law associations by providing an online application portal for pro bono program assistance, including an application, invention disclosure form, online seminar, and searchable list of programs in the various states.
To date, the USPTO has successfully helped create four pro bono programs across the nation and is partnering with other IP law associations to help an additional 10 get started by the end of 2013. Individuals and businesses interested in applying for pro bono patent assistance should visit the FCBA’s pro bono website, which includes request forms for applicants and patent attorneys interested in volunteering for pro bono patent assistance:http://www.fedcirbar.org/olc/pub/LVFC/cpages/misc/pto.jsp.
The start of the new pro bono programs coincides with the annual National Celebrate Pro Bono Week, first organized by the American Bar Association in 2009 to focus attention on the importance of providing equal access to justice for all, especially those who can least afford it, and to celebrate the outstanding work of lawyers who volunteer their services throughout the year—including those who help keep the American spirit of ingenuity alive by assisting independent inventors and small businesses in applying for patents.