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Pro Bono Legal Aid for Independent Inventors

Imagine if each registered patent attorney and patent agent provided pro bono services to independent inventors.  Who would administer legal aid to independent inventors?  Who would decide which independent inventors received help?  Who would pay the USPTO fees?  And, if a registered practitioner filed a patent application, would that practitioner be obligated to handle prosecution?

In November 2009 at the 14th Annual Independent Inventors Conference, USPTO Director David Kappos addressed independent inventors and expressed that the USPTO was exploring pro bono legal services for inventors.  Since November, we’ve heard very little follow up on the USPTO’s desire to foster a pro bono patent program.  However, I’ve noticed other changes that are making a significant impact for independent inventors.  One inventor had a nonprovisional patent application filed in July 2009.  It was not part of the pilot program nor did it have a petition to make special.  What the patent application had was an inventor who had a dream and a plan to deliver the dream to the public.  The inventor started to repeatedly call the USPTO and finally was able to get in touch with a SPE who was genuinely interested in the success of independent inventors.  The SPE talked with the Primary Examiner who then negotiated an amendment and sent out a Notice of Allowance before January 1, 2010.   Imagine the Patent Office propelling an independent inventor’s dream?!

Just like an invention, the pro bono patent legal services program needs to be nurtured and developed.  And like prototypes, there will be kinks to work out, clients that may not always be satisfied, and of course, funding challenges.  However, there will also be inventors who are empowered to start the innovation journey with patent protection.   So, here’s a toast to recognize new possibilities for independent inventors to protect their dreams and to stay tuned for more information about possibilities for pro bono patent legal services.