USPTO Patent Pro Bono Program

Jennifer M. McDowell

©2015. Published in Landslide, Vol. 8, No. 2, November/December 2015, by the American Bar Association. Reproduced with permission. All rights reserved. This information or any portion thereof may not be copied or disseminated in any form or by any means or stored in an electronic database or retrieval system without the express written consent of the American Bar Association or the copyright holder.

Just 31 words, written into law four years ago, have created a sea change for modest means inventors and small businesses. Those words, codified in Section 32 of the Leahy-Smith America Invents Act (AIA), required the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) to work with intellectual property (IP) law associations to establish pro bono programs. Through a network of nonprofit organizations, law schools, and bar associations, this program links low income inventors with patent lawyers to file and prosecute their applications without any attorney fees. So why is the concept of patent pro bono such a big deal?

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