The Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts in New York is launching the expansion of its Patent Pro Bono Program to include New Jersey and Connecticut with a kick-off event on February 10th, 2015, at Orrick Herrington & Sutcliffe LLP in New York City. The Patent Pro Bono Program will match low-income inventors in the tri-state area with volunteer patent attorneys registered to practice before the USPTO to provide patent prosecution counsel and assistance.
This is only the first of three Patent Pro Bono Programs to launch this month. On February 17th, Georgia PATENTS (Pro bono Assistance & Training for Entrepreneurs and New, Talented, Solo inventors) will have its kick-off event in Atlanta at Alston & Byrd. Georgia PATENTS is facilitated by the Georgia Lawyers for the Arts with support from the State Bar of Georgia and the Intellectual Property Sections of the State Bar of Georgia and the Atlanta Bar.
A Patent Pro Bono Program in the Midwest will follow shortly thereafter on February 19th in St Louis. Gateway VMS and the State Bar of Missouri will debut the program, with the support from Husch Blackwell and Lewis Rice Fingerish. The Missouri based program will provide patent pro bono coverage for five states, including Missouri, Arkansas, Nebraska, Kansas, and Oklahoma.
The launch of programs in New York, Georgia, and Missouri follows the success of the first Patent Pro Bono Program, a pilot program that launched in Minnesota in 2011. Since then, Minnesota’s LegalCORPS Inventor Assistance Program (IAP) has matched volunteer patent attorneys with over 60 Minnesota inventors, including 15 inventors who have been granted patents and many others with pending patent applications. From Minnesota to Georgia, and from California to Connecticut, the interest and encouragement of the USPTO have been key components to the successful establishment of these patent pro bono programs.
“The USPTO is thrilled with the expansion of the Patent Pro Bono Program,” said Jennifer McDowell, USPTO Pro Bono Coordinator. “Local innovation supports the local economy and these programs will help ensure that inventors have access to patent counsel, which is so critical to the success of their businesses.” Currently, only five states (Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Illinois, and Indiana) remain without Patent Pro Bono Program coverage. However, partners in those states are very close to establishing programs so that residents in all 50 states can take advantage of this tremendous opportunity.
Support from the ABA, including the Intellectual Property Law and Business Law Sections and their members, and advice from the ABA’s Standing Committee on Pro Bono and Public Service and the Center for Pro Bono, also have been critical to the establishment and success of these patent pro bono programs. The patent bar has truly heeded President Obama’s call to action on this initiative. For more information about the patent pro bono programs or to volunteer with a program in your area, please contact McDowell at Jennifer.Mcdowell@uspto.gov, or Amy Salmela, ABA Intellectual Property Law Section Pro Bono Committee Chair, at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Co-authors Jennifer McDowell and Amy Salmela have been closely involved in the development of the Patent Pro Bono Program, which was initiated in 2011 as a result of the Leahy-Smith America Invents Act to establish programs to provide free legal assistance to under-resourced inventors interested in securing patent protection for their inventions.