To the music of the award winning jazz group, the Mary Louise Knutson Trio, the Upper Midwest Inventor Assistance Program celebrated its expansion on April 20, 2015 at William Mitchell College of Law, in St. Paul, Minnesota. The expansion is part of the USPTO’s nationwide effort to establish and expand programs that will connect low income inventors with volunteer patent lawyers. Since 2011, Minnesota’s patent pro bono program, administered by the LegalCORPS Inventors Assistance Program, has provided services to inventors within the state of Minnesota. In partnership with William Mitchell, the newly-expanded program provides patent law pro bono assistance to inventors in four additional states: North Dakota, South Dakota, Wisconsin and Iowa.
The afternoon of events began with a luncheon where Congressman Tom Emmer (6th District MN) gave the keynote speech to members of the judiciary, IP professionals, pro bono community leaders, and USPTO representatives. Next, a colloquium on the importance of Women in IP highlighted the views of four respected IP lawyers from across the country: Lisa Dunner, Dunner Law PLLC and ABA IP Law Section Chair; Angela Grayson, Associate General Counsel, IP, Walmart Stores, Inc.; Doris Hines Johnson, Partner, Finnegan, Hendersen, Farabow, Garrett and Dunner; and Denise DeFranco, Partner, Finnegan, Hendersen, Farabow, Garrett and Dunner and AIPLA President-Elect. Amy Salmela, Partner at Patterson Thuente IP, moderated the panel.
After the panel discussion, Representative Keith Ellison (5th District MN) provided opening remarks for the pro bono launch event, emphasizing the need to help those of modest means as a way to bolster the local and national economy. Then, USPTO Pro Bono Coordinator Jennifer McDowell provided a brief history of the program and thoughts on how the programs will continue to succeed with the help of attorneys, corporations, and law firms committed to making a difference in their field of expertise. Andrew Byrnes, USPTO Chief of Staff, provided the keynote address, highlighting the USPTO’s quality efforts and the importance of pro bono service. In conjunction with World IP Day, the reception following the launch incorporated the theme of music, featuring many local inventions relating to music. The entire day celebrated the innovation, equality, and economic development.
When Section 32 of the Leahy-Smith America Invents Act became law in fall 2011, the USPTO began working with intellectual property law associations across the country to establish pro bono programs designed to assist financially under-resourced independent inventors and small businesses secure patent protection for their inventions. Minnesota was the first state to establish a program, and now joins the growing list of programs expanding to cover nearby states. The efforts of those programs, in conjunction with the USPTO, has been astounding: within the past ten months, the number of states now having access to a patent pro bono program has more than doubled. The USPTO is pleased to partner with programs such as LegalCORPS and William Mitchell College of Law to provide inventors of modest means the opportunity to utilize highly specialized, competent patent counsel, for free, in the filing and prosecution of their patent applications.