Celebrating the One-Year Anniversary of the Pro Bono Patent Prosecution Program

This week’s guest blogger, Mark Privratsky, Partner at Lindquist & Vennum, PLLP, shares the progress made since we last highlighted the Minnesota LegalCORPS Inventor Assistance Program a year ago.

Many accomplishments have been logged toward the Minnesota pilot of the LegalCORPS Inventor Assistance Program (“IAP”) shedding its “pilot” moniker and showing it is here to stay.  The hard work of the three founding Minneapolis law firms of Lindquist & Vennum, Meyer & Njus, and Patterson Thuente Christensen Pedersen, over the past year has truly come to fruition.

Composed of IP counsel from Minnesota businesses and private law firms, the IAP’s Process Committee began the journey by developing the program’s day-to-day procedures.  The other side of the coin brought together the IAP Funding Committee, which successfully obtained monies and future commitments to ensure support for at least three years.  The Screening Committee began its work early on too, reviewing published patent applications to determine if they qualified for services.  Finally, the nonprofit LegalCORPS has been matching volunteer lawyers with clients, a full-time task in itself.

Nationally, the America Invents Act Pro Bono Task Force exists to lead the way for development of similar programs across the country.  The Task Force includes at its core: David Kappos, Undersecretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Director of the United States Patent & Trademark Office; the Honorable Randall R. Rader, Chief Judge, Federal Circuit Court of Appeals; Jim Brookshire, Executive Director of the Federal Circuit Bar Association; Warren Tuttle, United Inventors Association; individuals that founded the Minnesota pilot, and numerous other representatives from the ABA, AIPLA, IPO, and entities with government and private backgrounds.  Three more programs are slated to come online this year, and eleven in 2013, with complete regional coverage possibly by 2014.  And under instruction from the Task Force, attorneys Amy Salmela and Mark Privratsky are authoring an IAP “best practices” handbook.

The true success of the IAP is the good it does.  Inventor Nick Musachio’s application for a resistance device was saved from abandonment, recently resulting in an issued patent.  Similarly, the first inventor to enter the program, Paul Ashman, received a Notice of Allowance on his application, after two rounds of Office Actions and multiple examiner interviews.  Without the assistance of his volunteer attorney, Ashman may have given up.  Over fifty Minnesota lawyers have signed on to provide these same great services, and almost twenty clients have already received assistance to date.  It has been a good year!

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