Pro Bono Patent Help for Inventors

Pro Bono Patent Help for Inventors

Pro Bono Patent Help for Inventors in California

by Kelly Rayburn

Securing a patent is challenging, and many lawyers and inventors say the cost of hiring an attorney is the most significant barrier. Big companies with big budgets hire the representation they need, but independent inventors can get left out. The California Inventors Assistance Program was designed to ensure that no good invention goes without a patent for want of legal help.

“It’s an incredibly complicated area of law,” says Erik Metzger, an attorney with chip maker Intel who is among dozens of attorneys participating pro bono in the program. “It’s daunting even for someone like me who’s licensed to practice in this area.”

The fledgling program has helped almost 90 inventors in California and nearby states.

“These people call every week,” says David Jordan of Fish & Richardson, another volunteer. ” ‘Is my patent here yet? Is my patent here yet?’ It’s more than just an invention for them. It’s their hope. It’s their future.”

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office tapped California Lawyers for the Arts to administer the state program, which is part of a nationwide effort launched in 2011 under the America Invents Act (Pub. L. No. 112-79). So far, clients have sought patents on everything from improved wind turbines to better doggy diapers.

It’s a boon not just for the inventors, but also for patent lawyers, who don’t often see relevant volunteer opportunities. “It can be tough for patent attorneys to find pro bono work because our area of expertise is so narrow,” says Benjamin A. Kimes, an attorney in Lowenstein Sandler’s Palo Alto office. “The level of help I can give in other areas (of the law) is not nearly what it is if I’m doing pro bono work in patent law.”

Inventors seeking legal representation can visit www.fedcirbar.org.

Pro Bono Patent Help for Inventors in Other Jurisdictions

  • Pushing Ahead with Pro Bono Assistance. “Pro bono” is a Latin phrase meaning “done for the public good without compensation. … The LegalCORPS Inventor Assistance Program opened its doors.
  • Patent Pro Bono Program (USPTO): The U.S. Department of Commerce’s United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) announced in november 2013 a new charter agreement. The Patent Pro Bono Program provides free legal assistance to under-resourced inventors interested in securing patent protection for their innovations. One of the many answers to the concern of patent costs that the America Invents Act provides is the establishment of an Inventor Assistance Pro Bono Program.
  • Pro Bono Aid Helping Low-Income Inventors Gain Patents: this refers to the iniciative launched in May 2013.
  • Federal Circuit Bar Association: The Federal Circuit Bar Association (FCBA) has agreed to help the USPTO Pro Bono Program in two ways. One of them is the FCBA Regional Patent Pro Bono Program’s Inventor Assistance Program
  • California Inventors Assistance Program: Under the “America Invents Act,” the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) established a new pro bono program designed to assist financially inventors (see above).
  • The Florida Patent Pro Bono Program: The Florida Institute is pleased to present the Florida Patent Pro Bono … under-resourced inventors with the pro bono legal assistance of a patent agent or attorney.
  • Georgia Lawyers for the Arts: Georgia PATENTS stands for Pro bono Assistance & Training for Entrepreneurs and New, Talented, Solo inventors. The program seeks to help solo inventors and others.
  • Inventor Assistance Program (IAP) – WIPO: It matches developing country inventors and small businesses with limited financial means with patent attorneys, who provide pro bono legal assistance to inventors.