The Pro Se Assistance Program is the United States Patent and Trademark Office's comprehensive pilot to expand outreach to inventors who file patent applications without the assistance of a registered patent attorney or agent (also known as "pro se" filing). On this page, you will find information about the program and how it works, and guides and resources for some of the most common issues that pro se applicants encounter.
If you've got a great idea for an invention but you're not sure what a patent is or why you might need one, watch the animated video below.
Getting started with pro se assistance
The USPTO always recommends using a registered attorney or agent to assist in preparing and prosecuting a patent application. However, the USPTO also recognizes that the cost of such assistance is prohibitive for many applicants, particularly independent inventors and small business concerns. In light of that, the USPTO has launched the Pro Se Assistance Program to help inventors meet their goals of protecting their valuable intellectual property.
The Pro Se Assistance Program has two components: an assistance program for the public and an internal examination unit dedicated specifically to examining pro se patent applications.
The Pro Se Assistance Program offers various services for the public, including:
- Dedicated personnel for assisting pro se applicants
- In-person assistance for the general public at USPTO Headquarters
- Targeted support to connect applicants with relevant resources and information
- Online resources found on this Web page
A patent application is a collection of documents that conform to U.S. laws, rules, and guidelines outlined in the Manual of Patent Examining Procedure. The specific list of documents and forms depends on a number of factors, including the type of patent application, the protection sought, and the invention itself. The Pro Se Assistance Program makes this checklist of documents and forms available for your use in preparing your application. While not comprehensive, it contains the most commonly required elements to form a nonprovisional utility patent application.
The Electronic Filing System-Web (EFS-Web) is the USPTO's online application filing system that allows anyone with a computer and Internet access to file a patent application with the USPTO. Electronic filing is the easiest and most efficient way to file an application. The Pro Se Assistance Program offers assistance in using EFS-Web to file an application. Assistance is provided via phone or email or in-person during walk-in hours.
In addition to the Pro Se Assistance Program, there are many resources to assist in using EFS-Web.
- EFS-Web Resources
- The Electronic Business Center administers EFS-Web and can can help with any technical issues.
Below is a flowchart to graphically represent EFS-Web filing process. Click on the image for a larger version.
In-person assistance (by appointment or unscheduled visit)
In-person assistance for pro se applicants is available at USPTO headquarters in Alexandria, Virginia. Program personnel are available to meet with applicants to answer questions and assist them in filing their applications. Due to high demand, in-person visitors are kindly asked to schedule an appointment ahead of time to allow the USPTO to provide the same high level of customer service and attention for every pro se applicant.
To make an appointment, please call toll free: 1-866-767-3848 or email email@example.com.
Hours 8:30 a.m. to 5 p.m., Monday-Friday (Business hours)
Hours 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Monday-Friday (Unscheduled visit)
The Pro Se Assistance Program is closed on federal holidays and during mandatory building closures due to inclement weather.
Our physical address is 600 Dulany Street, Alexandria, Virginia, 22313. In-person visitors will need to enter the main Madison Building and proceed to the security desk on the first floor of the west wing and request access. You will need a valid form of photo identification that complies with the REAL ID Act. Important note: not all state-issued driver's licenses or identification cards comply with the REAL ID Act. For more information, see our visitor access information page.
Pro Se Assistance is a current pilot program at the USPTO which offers customer service to applicants filing patent applications without legal representation. While an applicant may prosecute the application and file papers in their application, lack of skill in this field usually acts as a liability in affording the maximum protection for the invention disclosed. Applicants are advised to secure the services of a registered patent attorney or agent to draft and prosecute a patent application, since the value of a patent is largely dependent upon skilled preparation and prosecution. USPTO employees (including Pro Se Assistance and the examiner of record) cannot give legal advice. To assist applicants in making informed decisions, Pro Se Assistance can provide assistance in helping applicants navigate www.uspto.gov and the Manual of Patent Examining Procedure (MPEP) to locate publically available educational resources.
Contact the Pro Se Assistance Program
For general inquiries, questions about your application, or other pro se matters, the Pro Se Assistance Program can be contacted in a variety of ways:
Toll free phone number: 1-866-767-3848
Pro Se Assistance, Mail Stop 24
P.O. Box 1450
Alexandria, VA, 22313-1450