The cost of hiring competent legal representation is often a barrier when applying for a patent or trademark. The Office of Enrollment and Discipline oversees two programs that provide applicants with free options for acquiring intellectual property protection.
Patent Pro Bono Program
The Patent Pro Bono Program is a nationwide network of independently operated academic and nonprofit organizations that endeavor to match volunteer patent practitioners with financially under-resourced inventors seeking patent protection. Inventors and small businesses that meet qualifying criteria, including certain economic and financial thresholds, may be eligible for free income-based legal assistance in preparing and filing a patent application. Patent practitioners may volunteer by applying directly with the regional Patent Pro Bono Program in the state or region in which they practice. The programs are administered locally and each have their own requirements.
Filing a patent on your own
The Pro Se Assistance Program provides outreach and education for independent inventors who file patent applications without the assistance of a registered patent attorney or agent.
Law School Clinic Certification Program
The Law School Clinic Certification Program allows applicants to obtain pro bono legal assistance in both patent and trademark matters while allowing law students enrolled in a participating law school's clinic program to practice intellectual property law before the USPTO under the strict guidance of a law school faculty clinic supervisor. Each school has its own criteria for accepting clients.
Not everyone is eligible to represent you before the USPTO in patent or trademark matters. Read about ways to protect yourself from scams.