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 2010 to provide legal services to help such individuals and businesses obtain solid patent protection. Using the Minnesota pilot program as a model, the USPTO has contacted numerous law associations across the country to assist in putting together additional pro bono programs. As a result five new regional pro bono programs will open their doors during the second half of 2012. The five new pro bono programs include Denver, California, Texas, Washington DC metropolitan area, including Maryland and Virginia, and New York City metropolitan area, including northern New Jersey and Connecticut. Look for at least ten additional regional programs to open their doors in 2013. Also be on the lookout for a single entry point for anyone interested in pro bono assistance, which should be ready for applicants in July. Notice will be posted on the USPTO website providing additional information about the progress of each of these exciting steps forward.
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 an invention and income qualifications. The knowledge requirement can be shown through a filing receipt for a pending patent application or through a certificate of completion for a general knowledge course provided at https://uspto.connectsolutions.com/certificationpackage/. The ability to show an invention’s patentability can be shown through a patent search for similar prior art. The qualification of income limit is determined by each regional program. Please visit http://www.uspto.gov/inventors/proseprobono/index.jsp 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).
- 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.
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)