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Section 32 of the America Invents Act requires that “The Director shall work with and support intellectual property law associations across the country in the establishment of pro bono programs designed to assist financially under-resourced independent inventors and small businesses.” The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) is working to make pro bono assistance a reality by working with and supporting many different IP law associations in their effort to make sure that no good invention is left undiscovered due to the financial inability to secure the services of a registered patent professional.

The pro bono programs will be individually run as regional programs available to assist inventors and small businesses in their specific region first and to others as the need arises. In order to logistically manage applicants to the programs, it has been decided that there should be a single intake and initial screening authority. This authority or “clearing house” will take the responsibility of collecting all eligible individuals and businesses and forwarding those qualifying to their respective regional program. PTO and the Federal Circuit Bar Association have agreed that the Association will serve as the national clearinghouse for this program and as the regional program facilitator for the District of Columbia, Maryland, and Virginia region.

In order to provide financially under-resourced inventors and small businesses with a volunteer pro bono provider, there must be minimal requirements to make sure those requesting pro bono assistance actually qualify for assistance and for referral to a regional program. First, an applicant must show that they understand the patent process and what they can do with a patent once received. This can be done through the showing of a USPTO issued filing receipt for a provisional or non-provisional patent application or by successfully completing a USPTO training module found on the pro se/pro bono page of the USPTO web site (http://www.uspto.gov/inventors/proseprobono/index.jsp). This site also lists the current states that have pro bono programs.  A certificate of completion is available from that training module. Second, each applicant will be required to provide financial information so that a determination can be made that they qualify under the financial limits set by each regional program.

Frequently Asked Questions

FCBA Pro Bono Handout

Program Description

Program Description

Clearing House Pro Bono Service Request

Pro Bono Service Request Form

Regional Volunteer Attorney Submission Form

Attorney Submission Form

Pro Bono Provisions of the AIA webcast audio recording
March 20, 2012

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