Inventors that meet certain financial thresholds and other criteria may be eligible for free legal assistance when appearing before the Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB). The PTAB Pro Bono Program matches volunteer patent professionals with financially under-resourced inventors to provide free legal assistance in preparing ex parte appeals to the PTAB. The PTAB Pro Bono Program is administered by the PTAB Bar Association.
To be eligible to participate in the PTAB Pro Bono Program, a patent applicant must meet certain eligibility requirements.
You must be domiciled in the United States of America.
Your gross household income should be less than 3 times the federal poverty level guidelines.
You must have a certification of micro entity status in your patent application that is the subject of the appeal.
You must apply to the program within 1 month from the date of an office action in which the claims have been twice or finally rejected.
You must demonstrate knowledge of the ex parte appeal process by successfully completing a video training course consisting of two videos. The first video explains how the PTAB Pro Bono Program works. The second video walks through the ex parte appeal process.
How inventors can apply for assistance
The PTAB Bar Association is the clearinghouse for this program. In this role, the PTAB Bar Association (clearinghouse) will review completed applications to determine if the applicant meets the eligibility qualifications and any additional requirements for the program. If the clearinghouse determines that the applicant satisfies all the eligibility requirements, then the clearinghouse will attempt to match the applicant with a volunteer attorney. The clearinghouse itself does not provide legal advice or representation.
The size and scope of this program is limited, and the clearinghouse may not have a suitable volunteer available for every qualified applicant. Qualifying for the program does not guarantee that the applicant will receive representation.
Please visit the PTAB Bar Association for more information on applying for ex parte appeal assistance.
How patent practitioners can volunteer
Registered patent practitioners are critical to the success of the PTAB Pro Bono Program. If you are a patent practitioner interested in volunteering your legal services, please complete an online volunteer application form.
News and media
Fish & Richardson, PTAB Pro Bono Program Launches (June 21, 2022)
Bloomberg Law, Patent Office to Roll Out Pro Bono Program for PTAB Proceedings (Nov. 18, 2021)
USPTO press release, USPTO launches PTAB Pro Bono Program (March 24, 2022)
Vorys, USPTO to Offer Pro Bono Services to Qualifying Inventors (March 28, 2022)
JD Supra, USPTO Establishes Third Pro Bono Program for the Board (April 4, 2022)
PIPG, PTAB Pro Bono Program Sets Out to Level the Playing Field (April 8, 2022)
Other USPTO programs
The PTAB Pro Bono Program is separate from the United States Patent and Trademark Office's (USPTO) Patent Pro Bono Program, which provides free legal assistance to under-resourced inventors in filing and prosecuting a patent application for their inventions. Please visit the Patent Pro Bono Program and other assistance programs offered by the USPTO for more information.
Contact the PTAB Pro Bono Program
If you have any questions, please contact the USPTO at PTABprobono@uspto.gov. Please note that the USPTO does not handle the application process or the matching process. Any questions about those topics should be directed to the PTAB Bar Association at PTABprobono@ptabbar.org.