Bridging the Innovation Gap: Pro Bono Opportunities for Intellectual Property Attorneys

By Raymond Millien
February 26, 2013

A few months ago, I posted a three-part series entitled The Real McCoy: Should Intellectual Property Rights be the New Civil Rights in America? In that article, I explained that, in the last thirty years or so, there has been a shift from a labor economy to a knowledge economy. Consequently, intangible assets (with intellectual property rights (IPR) being chief among them) have emerged as the most powerful asset class, overtaking more traditional capital assets such as real estate, plant and equipment.  I then went on to define and point out that there is an “Innovation Gap” – disparities between classes of people, caused by societal hindrances, which prevent them from securing the IP rights necessary to economically exploit the fruits of their creativity.  I then argued that given the existence of an innovation gap, and the fact that we are in an information age with another industrial revolution on the way, IPR should be the focus of a renewed civil rights movement.  After all, the world’s natural resources may be shrinking, but the opportunities for there to be new candidates for IPR ownership are ever expanding!

I ended my three-part article by recommending that members of the IP Bar should strive to volunteer more pro bono hours in order to help bridge the innovation gap.  Encouragingly, I received some emails from readers asking, “how can I help?”  Well, after some research, here is a list of some organizations around the country seeking patent, trademark and copyright pro bono attorney volunteers.

Alabama State Bar Volunteer Lawyers Program Montgomery, AL
Arts & Business Council of Miami Miami, FL
Association of Corporate Counsel: Austin Chapter Austin, TX
Birmingham Bar Association Volunteer Lawyers Program Birmingham, AL
City Bar Justice Center’s: Neighborhood Entrepreneur Law Project (NELP) New York, NY
California Lawyers for the Arts San Francisco, CA
Cannonball (formerly LegalArt) Miami, FL
Colorado Lawyers for the Arts(COLA) Denver, CO
Dallas Volunteer Attorney Program Dallas, TX
Economic Development Pro Bono Project District of Columbia Bar Washington, D.C.
Fed Circuit Bar Association, PTO Pro Bono Program Washington, D.C.
Intellectual Property Law Section West Virginia State Bar Charleston, WV
International Trademark Association New York, NY
Lawyers Alliance for New York New York, NY
Lawyers for the Creative Arts Chicago, IL
Louisiana Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts New Orleans, LA
Mobile County Bar Association Volunteer Lawyers Program Mobile, AL
North Carolina Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts Durham, NC
Ocean State Lawyers for the Arts Saunderstown, RI
Philadelphia LawWorks Philadelphia, PA
Philadelphia Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts Philadelphia, PA
PILnet ProBono Clearing Houses New York, NY
Pro Bono Clearinghouse Greater Richmond Bar Richmond, VA
Pro Bono Project: Lawyers in the Library San Jose, CA
ProBono Partnership White Plains, NY
ProBoPat (Upcoming) Denver, CO
Public Interest Intellectual Property Advisors (PIIPA) Arlington, VA
Public Patent Foundation (PUBPAT) New York, NY
Springboard for the Arts St. Paul, MN
St. Louis Volunteer Lawyers and Accountants for the Arts St. Louis, MO
State Bar of Georgia A Business Commitment Project Atlanta, GA
Technology Assistance Small Business Development Center North Texas Small Business Development Center (NTSBDC) Dallas, TX
Texas Accountants & Lawyers for the Arts (TALA) Houston, TX
Texas Community Building with Attorney Resources / Texas C-BAR Austin, Texas
The South Carolina Bar Pro Bono Program Columbia, SC
The Veterans Consortium Pro Bono Program  Washington, DC
Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts New York, NY
Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts of Massachusetts Boston, MA
Washington Area Lawyers for the Arts (WALA) Washington, D.C.


Happy bridging!

The Author

Raymond Millien

Raymond Millien named one of the “World’s 300 Leading IP Strategists” by Intellectual Asset Management (IAM) Magazine and a “Corporate IP STAR” by Managing IP (MIP) Magazine, is Chief Executive Officer of Harness, Dickey & Pierce, P.L.C. He oversees the firm’s operations, including HR, Finance, Marketing/Business Development, IT, and Docketing. Previously, Ray was Chief IP Officer at Volvo Car Corporation and CEO of Volvo Cars Ventures. He has led the IP function at GE Oil & Gas and the American Express Company, and the software IP function at GE Healthcare. Ray has also served as General Counsel of merchant bank Ocean Tomo, LLC, and practiced law in the Washington, D.C. offices of DLA Piper US LLP and Sterne, Kessler, Goldstein & Fox PLLC. He received a B.S. in Computer Science from Columbia University, and a J.D. from The George Washington University Law School. In addition to his career as an innovation and legal executive, Ray is a lecturer and published author with experience as a member of several boards of directors and in venture capital, licensing, software development, and corporate and technology law.

You can read more about Ray or contact him via his Firm Bio page.

Warning & Disclaimer: The pages, articles and comments on do not constitute legal advice, nor do they create any attorney-client relationship. The articles published express the personal opinion and views of the author as of the time of publication and should not be attributed to the author’s employer, clients or the sponsors of Read more.

Discuss this

There are currently 1 Comment comments.

  1. Inventor0875 March 4, 2013 12:04 am

    To Raymond,

    To occurs to me that, the design of the patent laws themselves may be the biggest factor in either empowering or hindering those with limited starting resources.

    As one example, consider European “absolute novelty” (no public disclosure) versus U.S. grace period (harmonization).

    Absolute novelty” unnecessarily creates a Catch-22 taking/preventing. The very things those with limited starting knowledge/resources use to advance their invention, are used against the inventors, to prevent they from patenting and benefiting from their invention.

    There are many others, including those that unnecessarily increase the inventors costs.

    There is a need for a series of articles about this, here and/or elsewhere.