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Monday Jun 24, 2019

Intellectual property resources in your area

By Andrei Iancu, Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Director of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office

Providing entrepreneurs, small businesses, and independent inventors with access to intellectual property (IP) resources is one of the major priorities for the USPTO. These entities are vital to our country’s economy, but they often don’t have the same resources that larger entities can leverage to protect their innovations. Because of that, the USPTO oversees several programs to assist with free or reduced-cost help in applying for patents, including the Patent Pro Bono Program, the Pro Se Assistance Program, the Certified Law School Clinic Program, and Patent and Trademark Resource Centers. That’s all in addition to the reduced filing fees we charge to small and micro entities.

Recently, we updated our website to make many of these resources easier to find. Take a look! The “Find help in your area” link under the “New to IP?” area at the top of the USPTO homepage takes users to a map of the United States where they can select state-specific resource pages and regional USPTO office pages. From free legal assistance to listings of local inventor clubs, there’s a large array of helpful programs. In addition, we’ve added regional event filters to our main USPTO events calendar so you can easily find upcoming events in your local area. Overall, we updated more than 60 pages, and over the next few months, we will be gathering public feedback in order to continue making even more helpful changes to our website. Send us a comment. We’d love to hear from you.

Image of the USPTO website

Recent USPTO website updates make finding local resources and events easier

Under-resourced independent inventors and small businesses may be particularly interested in securing free legal representation to help them protect their inventions using the Patent Pro Bono Program. Located across the country, each of the 21 local nonprofit pro bono programs matches inventors with volunteer patent attorneys to help them navigate the process for obtaining a patent. Since the program began, over 1,900 inventors have been matched with registered patent practitioners, and currently more than 1,500 attorneys are available to volunteer through the program.

Another way for inventors and entrepreneurs to secure free legal services is through the Law School Clinic Certification Program. Currently, there are 60 participating law school clinics where law students draft and file patent or trademark applications for clients under the supervision of their law school faculty. Since its inception, over 4,000 law students have participated in the program and have filed more than 850 patent applications and more than 3,300 trademark applications for clients.

Some independent inventors and small businesses choose to file patent applications without the assistance of a registered patent attorney or agent—also known as "pro se" filing. We have tools to assist pro se filers, as well as a dedicated USPTO team available to answer filing questions and explain the process. To learn more, visit the Pro Se Assistance Program page of the USPTO website.

We also offer independent inventors and small businesses reduced patent filing fees for “micro entities” and “small entities.” Entities that meet the micro-entity requirements are eligible for a 75 percent reduction on most fees, and small entity status offers a 50 percent fee reduction. View the full USPTO fee schedule.

Patent and Trademark Resource Centers (PTRCs) are another great way to get IP help. This nationwide network consists of public, state, and academic libraries designated by the USPTO to support the public with trademark and patent assistance. They provide the human touch in helping inventors and small businesses find the information they need to protect their IP. Please note that PTRC representatives are not attorneys, and they cannot provide legal advice. Find a PTRC in your state.

These are only some examples of the various services we offer to help inventors and entrepreneurs protect their IP. Visit the USPTO website to learn about even more resources.

American history is filled with remarkable stories of inventors and entrepreneurs who worked hard, took risks, persevered, dared to go where others would not, and ultimately overcame tremendous odds to succeed. We will continue to encourage the sparks of inventors’ ideas to grow into the flames of world-changing innovation.

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