Unleashing American Innovators Act of 2022 - Study of the Patent Pro Bono Programs

Outline of map of the United States conceptualized in bubbles. Bubble contain photographs of diverse individuals within many of the bubbles, representing the diversity of groups served by the Patent Pro Bono Program.

The Unleashing American Innovators Act of 2022 (the Act or UAIA) required the Director of the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) to complete a study of the patent pro bono programs. The purpose of the study was to assess the functionality and health of the patent pro bono programs. The Act identified several areas of interest including:


  • Whether the patent pro bono programs are adequately serving prospective and existing participants;
  • Whether any participation requirements of the patent pro bono programs serve as a deterrent for prospective participants;
  • The degree to which prospective inventors are aware of the patent pro bono programs; and
  • Whether the patent pro bono program may benefit from expanding participation to non-attorneys, including patent agents and patent paralegals.

Final report to Congress

The UAIA Study of the Patent Pro Bono Programs was transmitted to Congress on December 29, 2023. Among its major findings:

  • From 2015 through 2022, over $39.3 million in donated legal services was provided to under resourced inventors and small businesses. The USPTO’s annual expenditure on the regional patent pro bono programs, which is approximately $1.2 million, serves as a force multiplier, amplifying the overall amount of funds donated to the public in the form of valuable donated legal services. For every dollar the USPTO spends annually for the regional patent pro bono programs to administer referral services, the public sees anywhere from $5.52 to $9.67 annually in direct legal assistance to independent inventors and small businesses. 
  • The USPTO took the proactive step of increasing the fiscal year 2023 budget for the program from $680,000 to approximately $1.2 million. The funding that has been allocated from the $1.2 million was premised not only on fund matching but also on the individual organizations presenting a concrete plan on how the money would be used to enhance access. Though in past years there had been turnover in the regional patent pro bono programs due to the inability of partner organizations to succeed, the additional funding and support has resulted in no turnover in the regional patent pro bono programs in 2023.
  • The regional patent pro bono programs effectively expand access to the patent system to historically underserved communities, with those applicants who identify as Black, Native American, or mixed race doing so at or above the existing proportions in the U.S. population. Applicants identifying as Black accounted for 30% of those participating in the program in 2021 and 35% in 2022, and those identifying as Native American accounted for 1.5% in 2021 and 1.6% in 2022.
  • Approximately 7.9% of patent pro bono applicants in 2022 were veterans, which was greater than the 5.2% of veterans in the 2020 U.S. population.
  • Also, whereas our data shows that only 12-13% of patent owners are women, 43% of applicants to in the Patent Pro Bono program self-identified as women in 2022 (up from 41% in 2021). 
  • The primary condition restricting inventor participation is the financial screening requirement of the regional patent pro bono programs, and the USPTO is working with the programs, where practicable, to increase the threshold to a gross household income that is not more than 400% of the federal poverty line as set forth in the UAIA.
  • Year-over-year increases in the number of individuals inquiring about the Patent Pro Bono Program in the past few years, including a 6% jump from 2021-2022, indicate that the USPTO, the Patent Public Advisory Committee (PBAC), and the regional patent pro bono programs’ promotion efforts are improving inventor awareness.
  • The regional patent pro bono programs include a significant number of non-attorney advocates (registered patent agents) who support the program, with data showing that approximately 23% of patent pro bono application filings were filed by a registered patent agent.

Download report

Public Listening Sessions

The USPTO also solicited public comments through public listening sessions on June 5, 2023, and June 7, 2023, titled “Inventor Listening Session for Patent Pro Bono Programs” and “Patent Practitioner Listening Session for Patent Pro Bono Programs,” respectively. The Federal Register Notice provides information about the public listening sessions.

The slides presented at the listening sessions can be found online. 

You can also access transcripts for the Inventor Listening Session and the Patent Practitioner Listening Session.

Written Comments

The USPTO solicited written comments from the public via a Federal Register Notice regarding feedback on the patent pro bono programs. In total, the USPTO received 14 comments from a variety of stakeholders, including legal associations, inventor groups, nonprofit entities, businesses, practitioners, and inventors.