The Programs area features information about Congressionally-mandated programs for the USPTO to establish under the AIA.
The AIA directs the USPTO to work with intellectual property law associations across the country in order to establish pro bono programs for financially under-resourced inventors and small businesses. A pilot program in Minnesota was launched in June of 2011 to provide legal services to help such individuals and businesses obtain solid patent protection. Using the Minnesota pilot program as a model, the USPTO contacted numerous law associations across the country to assist in putting together additional pro bono programs. As a result, eight regional pro bono programs have opened their doors since the second half of 2012. The new pro bono programs include Colorado, California, Texas, Washington, D.C., metropolitan area, New York City metropolitan area, Boston metropolitan area, Ohio, and the Philadelphia metropolitan area. Each existing regional program reaches across state borders to assist inventors in all or part of 28 states and the District of Columbia. Look for additional regional programs to open their doors in 2014. There is a single entry point for anyone interested in pro bono assistance. This single entry point is called the National Clearinghouse and can be accessed through the USPTO State Resources page. For states where a regional program offers assistance, there will be a link to the clearinghouse. If a state entry does not have a link to the clearinghouse, it is not yet covered by pro bono assistance.
Eligibility and acceptance to any regional pro bono program will be determined by an initial screening process. The screening will look at the individual’s or small business’ knowledge of the patent system, the potential patentability of the invention, and income qualifications. The patent knowledge requirement can be demonstrated by producing a filing receipt for a pending patent application or a certificate of completion for a general knowledge course. An invention’s patentability can be demonstrated through a patent search for similar prior art. The qualification of income limit is determined by each regional program. Please visit the Pro Bono Program page for additional information as it becomes available.
Diversity of Applicants
The AIA requires the USPTO to establish methods for studying patent applicant diversity, including applicants who are women, minorities, and veterans. The Office of the Chief Economist is devising methods to collect this information while ensuring that it does not result in preferential treatment for any groups or individuals. The methods of study must be established within 6 months from the date of enactment (i.e., by March 16, 2012).
The USPTO invites the public to provide comments on collecting information on the diversity of patent applicants consistent with the AIA. The deadline for comments is January 31, 2014.
- Request for Comments on Methods for Studying the Diversity of Patent Applicants (78 Fed. Reg. 72064, December 2, 2013)
- Diversity of Applicant Methodology (March 16, 2012)
Patent Ombudsman for Small Businesses
The AIA requires the USPTO to maintain a Patent Ombudsman Program providing patent filing support and services to small businesses and independent inventors. The USPTO has many existing programs to help small businesses and independent inventors, including the Inventors Assistance Center and an Ombudsman Program launched in April 2010 for all applicants. The Ombudsman Program assists applicants and their representatives with concerns about their patent applications and issues that arise during prosecution. The USPTO will continue working to provide small businesses and independent inventors with the specialized help they need to address their unique concerns. For more information about the Patent Ombudsman, consult the Patent Ombudsman web page. To contact the Patent Ombudsman, please call 571-272-5555 or 1-855-559-8589.
Program for Small Business Concerns (September 10, 2012)
Congress requires the USPTO to establish three satellite offices within three years of the date of enactment (i.e., by September 16, 2014). The purposes of these satellite offices are to increase outreach activities, enhance employee retention, improve recruiting, decrease the application backlog, and improve examination quality. In choosing office locations, the USPTO must consider creating geographic diversity, recruiting a technically skilled workforce at low cost, and the economic impact on the region. The USPTO plans to open the first satellite office in Detroit, Michigan as the ‘‘Elijah J. McCoy United States Patent and Trademark Office.” Other locations will be selected using the process described in the AIA.
- Satellite Office Selection (July 2, 2012)
- Satellite Office Federal Register Notice (76 Fed. Reg. 73601, November 29, 2011)