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Tuesday Jun 07, 2022

PTAB Pro Bono Program: Helping inventors obtain legal counsel for PTAB proceedings

Blog by Kathi Vidal, Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Director of the USPTOPTAB proceedings

PTAB proceedings at the USPTO (Photos by Jay Premack/USPTO)

As Director of America’s innovation agency, I am committed to ensuring that our intellectual property system remains the dynamic engine of economic growth and national prosperity the framers of our Constitution envisioned. We fully recognize that navigating the patent system can be difficult at times, including proceedings before the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB). Which is why I’m pleased to announce that we are now accepting applications from qualified inventors for free legal assistance in ex parte appeal proceedings through the PTAB Pro Bono Program.

The very definition of pro bono is “for the public good,” and the success of any pro bono program depends on volunteers with a strong, principled commitment to helping others. If you have ex parte appeal experience before the PTAB and a willingness to “pay it forward” by sharing that experience, the PTAB Bar Association could use your help. To get involved, you simply need to complete a short volunteer application.

As we noted in our previous announcement about the program, the PTAB Bar Association serves as the national clearinghouse for the PTAB Pro Bono Program. Initially, they will work to match a limited number of qualified inventors seeking ex parte appeal assistance with volunteer practitioners. In the future, we plan to expand the program to match inventors seeking America Invents Act (AIA) trial assistance with volunteer practitioners.

To be eligible for pro bono assistance, independent inventors must meet certain requirements. In general, they must demonstrate that they: 

1. live 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.

If you are an inventor and meet these requirements, you can apply for pro bono assistance by completing our brief inventor application. The availability of pro bono representation depends on a number of factors, including the availability of volunteer practitioners to handle pro bono matters, so we ask for your patience as we get this program off the ground and fully active in service of our nation’s innovation community.

We are excited to work with the PTAB Bar Association to increase the availability of free legal assistance to inventors. Check out the PTAB Pro Bono Program webpage for more information. Your feedback about the program is important, and we welcome any comments or suggestions to ptabprobono@uspto.gov. I'll also be talking more about the PTAB Pro Bono Program at an upcoming PTAB Boardside Chat webinar, this Thursday, June 9 from noon to 1 p.m. ET. 

Additionally, we appreciate your help spreading the word about this new program to help inventors obtain legal counsel for PTAB proceedings. We encourage you to share this program far and wide – we are invested in its success to bring more innovation to impact for all those with dreams of innovation. It’s our job to help make those dreams a reality.

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