Are you an inventor or small business who has limited resources and needs help applying for a patent on an invention? If so, you may be eligible to receive pro bono ("for free") attorney representation through the Nationwide Pro Bono Program.

Please watch this series of short videos to learn more about the patent pro bono program. 

Watch the Nationwide Patent Bro Bono Webinar presented by the USPTO Patent Bro Bono Program on May 7, 2020

Why have pro bono programs now?

The Pro Bono Program is an outcome of the Leahy-Smith America Invents Act (AIA) which encouraged the USPTO to "work with and support intellectual property law associations across the country in the establishment of pro bono programs designed to assist financially under-resourced independent inventors and small businesses." It is one the Obama Administration's seven Executive Actions for the USPTO to assist innovators by expanding the pro bono program to cover all 50 states.

Requirements for pro bono assistance

The eligibility requirements vary for each program.  In general, there are three basic requirements:

  1. maximum household income;
  2. knowledge of the patent system; and
  3. you must have an invention - not just an idea!

Maximum household income

You must earn less than the regional program's income limitation.

  • Region dependent, but usually 300% of federal poverty levels (link is external)Please check your regional program's web site to determine your income limitation. Examples (how to compute a 300% poverty level for a family income):
    • Example 1 - a single person could have an income of up to $45,180 (3 times the current single person poverty level of $15,060)

Knowledge of the patent system

There are two ways to demonstrate your knowledge of the patent system:

  • Have a current provisional or nonprovisional patent application on file with the USPTO
    NOTE: Some regional programs require that a provisional patent application be filed as a condition of requesting assistance,
  • Successfully complete the on-line certificate training course (certificado de formación en español)
    NOTE: Many regional pro bono programs require successful completion of the certificate training to be considered for the program

You must have an invention - not just an idea!

Before you can obtain a pro bono attorney, you will have to have an actual invention, not merely an idea. To demonstrate an invention, you should be able to describe the invention so that someone else could actually make and use the invention.

CAUTION: Do not publicly disclose your invention prior to filing a patent application or at least a provisional application for a patent. To do so could make it prior art against itself, resulting in an inability to secure a patent.

How to apply for pro bono assistance

You can apply for pro bono assistance to file a patent application for your invention by contacting the regional Patent Pro Bono Program in the state where you live. You can access your regional program’s website by clicking on the regional program map. Please email if you have any questions.

Additional resources