Guest bloggers Candee Goodman and Mark Privratsky are Pro Bono Director and Attorney, respectively, with Lindquist & Vennum PLLP
Lawyers may love their careers, clients, colleagues, and overall legal lives, but some days don’t exactly leave one with an overwhelming sense of fulfillment. As such, many lawyers involve themselves in their communities by providing pro bono legal services to others in need. Unfortunately, giving such services in a discipline that one does not normally practice raises additional stress and even concerns for potential mistakes. Accordingly, being able to provide pro bono legal services in one’s area of expertise allows for the best of both worlds.
In the pro bono world, a transactional lawyer is able to cover general corporate areas even if the specific question posed by the pro bono client does not fall directly within such lawyer’s wheelhouse. Likewise, litigators seem to have various alternatives to appear in court, whether it be small-claims, housing, harassment, immigration, or some other. For in-house and outside patent prosecution attorneys, however, working daily with the United States Patent & Trademark Office does not necessarily prepare oneself for how to close a deal or defend an unlawful detainer. Thus, a great need has existed for years for patent lawyers to be able to help low-income inventors seek their American dreams.
The LegalCORPS Inventor Assistance Program has been created to meet that need.
On June 8, 2011, David Kappos, Undersecretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Director of the United States Patent & Trademark Office launched the Minnesota LegalCORPS Inventor Assistant Program. LegalCORPS is a Minnesota nonprofit that assists low-income owners of small businesses and small nonprofit organizations by connecting them with free, high-quality legal services from volunteer lawyers. With Director Kappos’ vision for the program, Candee Goodman of Lindquist & Vennum PLLP and Jim Patterson of Patterson, Thuente, Christensen, Pedersen, P.A. —leaders within their respective Minneapolis law firms having demonstrated ties to both pro bono and intellectual property—began discussing how to create a program to eliminate the financial hurdles that often prohibit independent inventors from bringing great ideas to market. Since April 2010, Goodman, Patterson and several colleagues have worked tirelessly, along with LegalCORPS and the USPTO to secure funding, iron out processes and procedures, and promote the program to generate support and volunteers. The result of those efforts is a first-of-its-kind program that will provide pro bono legal assistance to inventors having already on-file pro se applications for their inventions. In pilot stage for the next three years, the program will take its first case in the next month or so and will ramp up through referrals from the USPTO.
Director Kappos has indicated that the USPTO will stand behind the project and put its own resources to work to ensure its success. His goal is to take the program nationwide, using the LegalCORPS Inventor Assistance Program as a model.