The America Invents Act (AIA) encourages the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) to "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 USPTO has been interacting with intellectual property (IP) law associations to assist in the establishment of such programs. The first pro bono program launched in June 2011 as the Minnesota pilot program. Currently, at least part or all of 20 states have pro bono programs offering assistance, with more slated to begin operation in 2013 and 2014. By the end of 2014 it is anticipate that at least part or all of 47 states will have a pro bono program to assist inventors and small businesses. An AIA Pro Bono Advisory Council has been formed to assist existing programs and offer assistance to new programs so that they operate under a central framework for pro bono. This advisory council is formed from members of existing and potential regional pro bono programs, national IP law associations, IP law schools and nonprofit administrators associated with the various programs.
Nationwide Pro Bono Program Information
PLEASE VIEW THE FOLLOWING VIDEO AND READ THE INFORMATION BELOW BEFORE REQUESTING PRO BONO ASSISTANCE
The current limited but growing number of regional pro bono programs has been established to assist financially under-resourced inventors and small businesses in the United States. An online portal for placing inventors in the current regional pro bono patent legal programs has been developed. This portal serves as a clearinghouse and is operated by the Federal Circuit Bar Association.
To find out if pro bono assistance is available in your state, please visit the USPTO State Resources Page. If a program is available, a link to the national clearinghouse will be provided on your state's resource page. As additional regional programs begin accepting applicants they will be added to the list of states.
Acceptance into a regional pro bono program requires each potential pro bono client to be screened for certain criteria. One of these criteria is household income, which is currently limited to 300% of the poverty level, adjusted by region. The clearinghouse portal will require you to provide contact information and answer a few questions to determine eligibility for the program. It also will require you to provide basic information about your invention, including a brief description, to help in the referral process. Should your application pass the first level of screening at the national clearinghouse, it will be forwarded to the appropriate regional program. All following correspondence will come from the regional program.
In order to gain a better understanding of the patent process and what rights an inventor obtains if granted a patent, you should take the time to complete the certificate training course. Many regional pro bono programs require successful completion of the certificate training to be considered for the program. Please note that acceptance into any pro bono program is not guaranteed, and not all applicants will be forwarded to a regional program.
The USPTO does not conduct or sponsor collection of your information through the portal. Any information you provide goes directly to the national clearinghouse and will not be sent to the USPTO.
This page is designed for those inventors that are either filing on their own behalf (pro se) or are seeking free or greatly reduced services from patent professionals. This page is meant to be actively dynamic so that as rules change or practices before the United States Patent and Trademark Office change the page will be updated with current information. The pro se portion of the page will eventually contain training on the patent process, training on search techniques, sample provisional applications and direct links to forms and fees needed for filing a patent application. The pro bono portion of the page will eventually contain vital information about the pro bono program as it increases in size to eventually cover the entire United States. Initially the page will include a training package with a certification certificate for successfully completing the training. This certification is one of many requirements to be considered for pro bono assistance. There will also be a link to a national screening program for admittance into any regional pro bono program. This process will be further explained on the pro bono page.