Inventors, inventor groups, and inventor-owned small businesses who 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, inventor groups, and inventor-owned small businesses to provide free legal assistance in preparing ex parte appeals to the PTAB.
As of April 1, 2023, the PTAB Pro Bono Program has been expanded to increase the types of inventors who may receive free legal help. The program originally assisted independent inventors, but with this recent change inventor-groups and inventor-owned small businesses may also qualify for assistance, if certain criteria is met. Also as of April 1, 2023, the PTAB Pro Bono Program has eliminated the eligibility requirement for an inventor to be a micro-entity. This means that an inventor is no longer limited to having three or fewer filed patent applications to be matched with a volunteer practitioner under this program. Further as of April 1, 2023, the PTAB Pro Bono Program has increased the income threshold from 300 to 400% of the federal poverty limit to enable more inventors to financially qualify.
Requirements ( as of April 1, 2023)
The PTAB Pro Bono Program supports solo inventors, inventor groups, and inventor-owned small businesses.
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.
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.