Pro Bono > PTO Pro Bono > Overview & FAQ

Overview & FAQ

For National Opportunities, view below

For International Opportunities, go here.


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. The FCBA will operate as a regional Patent Pro Bono Program for the states of Maryland, Virginia, 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 here.

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.

For insights into inventions and the benefits of the PTO Pro Bono program, see:



3M Pro Bono Support

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. 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. 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, West Virginia, or DC and would like to apply to the regional FCBA IAP, please visit the page linked here.

If you are a registered patent attorney in Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia, or DC and would like to volunteer for the regional, please submit the Volunteer Attorney Submission form.

Frequently Asked Questions

FAQ for Inventors

FAQ for Attorneys

For More Information

If you have more questions, please email


PLEASE NOTE: The FCBA pro bono outreach undertakes to provide information to attorneys for consideration, by those attorneys, with respect to possible representation. As noted above, the consideration of representation is a matter for the attorney. The attorneys are not agents of the FCBA. The FCBA is pleased to offer this informational service. The outreach is not a guarantee of pro bono representation. The FCBA always reserves the right to cease, immediately, any efforts to forward information or proceed with respect to any individual who has engaged or is engaging in abusive conduct, as determined by the FCBA, in the context of this service. The Federal Circuit Bar Association is not an instrument or agency of the United States Government. Those interested in pro bono relationships are always encouraged to pursue with others, including local law schools and state bar associations, all options available to them at all times.

Pro Bono Provisions of the AIA Webcast Audio Recording
March 20, 2012


Pro Bono Half-page 300x408637003688933804901

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