WASHINGTON – The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) today announced a collaboration with the PTAB Bar Association establishing a new Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) Pro Bono Program. Under the program, the PTAB Bar Association will serve as a national clearinghouse to connect volunteer patent practitioners with eligible inventors seeking legal assistance with ex parte appeals before the Board. Volunteer practitioners will provide their legal services free of charge to qualified inventors. The program will later expand to include AIA Trials.
“This program is another example of the USPTO’s commitment to level the playing field for all inventors and provide equitable access to all aspects of our world-class innovation ecosystem,” said Drew Hirshfeld, Performing the Functions and Duties of the Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Director of the USPTO. “We don’t want the cost of legal services to be a barrier to pursuing a patent for anyone. We are excited to partner with the PTAB Bar Association on this program, which will benefit inventors, practitioners, and the entire patent community.”
Starting March 24, 2022, the PTAB Bar Association will solicit volunteer patent practitioners with ex parte appeal experience before the Board to provide free legal services to qualified participants. The volunteer application form is available on the PTAB Bar Association’s website.
“We are pleased to assist financially under-resourced inventors in the patent process by serving as the Clearinghouse for the PTAB Pro Bono Program,” said Karl Renner, outgoing President PTAB Bar Association. “This new PTAB Pro Bono Program fills a need for under-resourced inventors to receive free legal assistance in proceedings before the PTAB, starting with ex parte appeals and expanding to AIA trials.”
Inventors can apply for assistance through the PTAB Bar Association, which will start accepting applications on June 1, 2022. To be eligible for pro bono assistance, independent inventors must demonstrate that they: (1) are domiciled in the United States; (2) have a gross household income less than three times the federal poverty guidelines; (3) established Micro Entity Status in the application subject to appeal; (4) applied within one month from the date of the office action in which claims have been twice or finally rejected; and (5) viewed the required training about the PTAB Pro Bono Program and the ex parte appeal process. Pro bono representation is subject to the availability of volunteer practitioners.
The PTAB Pro Bono Program comes nearly two months after the USPTO launched its Trademark Trial and Appeal Board’s (TTAB) Pro Bono Clearinghouse Program, with the first recognized program operated by the International Trademark Association (INTA). These pro bono programs build off the success of the USPTO’s Patent Pro Bono Program, which has matched more than 3,400 under-resourced inventors and small businesses with volunteer patent practitioners who have helped file over 1,800 patent applications, donating more than 84,000 hours. Read more about this program in our recent blog, and about additional PTAB resources for inventors.
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