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 efforts to make sure that no good invention is left undiscovered due to the financial inability to secure the services of a registered patent attorney.
The Patent Pro Bono Programs will be individually run as regional programs available to assist inventors and small businesses in their state or region. The Federal Circuit Bar Association (FCBA) has agreed to help in two ways. First, the FCBA will operate a National Clearinghouse that will be responsible for collecting applications from inventors and small businesses and then forwarding those on to the respective regional program. Second, the FCBA will operate as a regional Patent Pro Bono Program for the states of Maryland, Virginia, Delaware, West Virginia, as well as the District of Columbia. The USPTO’s pro bono website provides more information about which regional programs cover each state. See www.uspto.gov/probonopatents.
On August 4, 2015, the White House published a press release announcing that the USPTO Patent Pro Bono Program now covers all 50 states. To view the press release, visit the White House's website here.
Applicants should check the criteria for the regional Patent Pro Bono Program assigned to their state of residence to make sure that they qualify to be included in the program. If so, the applicant may either submit a request for assistance directly to their regional program, or they may complete a request through the National Clearinghouse. The National Clearinghouse will not perform any substantive screening on applications. Rather, the National Clearinghouse serves as a conduit to transfer requests for assistance to the appropriate regional program, based upon where the inventor is located or has a business. The National Clearinghouse will make certain that the inventor is either a U.S. resident or is otherwise legally permitted to be in the United States.
If you would like to request assistance through the National Clearinghouse, click HERE.
FCBA Regional Patent Pro Bono Program’s Inventor Assistance Program
As a responsible matchmaker of low income inventors and volunteer patent attorneys, the FCBA Regional Patent Pro Bono Program’s Inventor Assistance Program (IAP) must make certain that minimum program requirements are met, ensuring that those requesting pro bono assistance qualify for assistance and for referral into the program. Thus, the FCBA IAP has established four criteria for inventors and small businesses. First, inventors must show that they understand the patent process and what they can do with a patent once received. This can be done by successfully completing a USPTO training module found on the pro se/pro bono page of the USPTO website (http://www.uspto.gov/patents-getting-started/using-legal-services/pro-bono/inventors). A certificate of completion is available from that training module. Applicants will be required to provide that certificate to the FCBA IAP before their application for pro bono assistance will be processed.
Second, all applicants will be required to provide financial information so that a determination can be made that they qualify for the program. Generally, the FCBA IAP uses an income threshold of 300% of the Federal poverty guidelines. These can be found at: http://aspe.hhs.gov/poverty/14poverty.cfm. To determine whether an inventor qualifies for the regional program, the FCBA IAP will take into account the number of dependents in the inventor’s household, and then multiply the poverty guideline number for that household size by three. If the inventor’s income is less than 300% of the Federal poverty guidelines, then the inventor is financially eligible for participation in the regional program.
Third, the inventor must be able to describe his invention. This means not simply having an idea for an invention, but rather, the inventor must be able to explain how someone could make the invention.
If you live within Maryland, Virginia, Delaware, West Virginia, or DC and would like to apply to the regional FCBA IAP, please click HERE.
If you are a registered patent attorney in Maryland, Virginia, Delaware, West Virginia, or DC and would like to volunteer for the regional, please click HERE.
Frequently Asked Questions
FAQ for Inventors
FAQ for Attorneys
For More Information
If you have more questions, please email the FCBA’s Administrator for the Inventor Assistance Program at PBIAP@fedcirbar.org. Or you may call at 202-558-6483.