USPTO Gets Support for National Pro Bono Program


In the name of promoting innovation and equal access to the patent application process, the America Invents Act provides that the USPTO should  “work with and support intellectual property law associations across the country in the establishment of pro bono programs designed to assist financially under-resourced independent inventors and small businesses.”  As such, the USPTO has wasted no time in implementing the programs. A pilot pro bono patent program was established in Minnesota in 2011, and another 5 programs are scheduled to begin in 2012.

Just last month, Fenwick & West LLP announced that it is working in conjunction with Intel and California Lawyers for the Arts to assist the USPTO in launching the Northern California Pro Bono Patent Program. As per the announcement,

“The USPTO’s Northern California Pro Bono Program will likely be up and running by the end of the year. We believe it has the potential to create many new opportunities within Silicon Valley’s densely populated community of entrepreneurs and inventors, some of whom lack access to the legal services needed to secure their intellectual property,” said Fenwick patent attorney Sabra-Anne Truesdale.

Sterne, Kessler, Goldstein & Fox P.L.L.C. (SKGF) is also entering the world of pro bono IP work with the formal launch of its Intellectual Property and Human Rights Pro Bono Practice. The firm’s model is similar to a program run by the nonprofit Public Interest Intellectual Property Advisors, which pairs those in less developed countries with IP legal representation. According to the SKGF press release:

“While intellectual property law frequently promotes humanitarian technological development – medicines and shelter for example – the current system does not fulfill its maximum potential in areas of underdevelopment or poverty,” said Dr. Jorge A. Goldstein, SKGF founding director and chair of the IP and Human Rights Pro Bono Practice.  “The job of a human rights-conscious IP lawyer is to work within the traditional IP system to assure that its benefits are realized to full potential for everyone in the world, especially the poor and disenfranchised.  Our program is designed to develop and support the growth of human rights-conscious IP attorneys.”

In addition to the assistance from Fenwick & West LLP and SKGF, the USPTO has established a national pro bono Task Force. This Task Force includes the major IP law Association, members from the USPTO, the Federal Circuit Judiciary and others from the field. The USPTO shares that,

“The Task Force assists new programs and encourages additional programs in forming. The overall goal of the USPTO and the Task Force is to have the entire country covered by pro bono assistance for financially under-resourced inventors so that no worthy invention is left undiscovered.”

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