Would pro bono legal help lead to the patenting of more useful items? (Here, an 1879 plow)

Would pro bono legal help lead to the patenting of more useful items? (Here, an 1879 plow)

I routinely hear about—and share—stories of the need for increased legal services, and how pro bono service fills some of that gap.

The needs are great and often thought of as being in areas such as bankruptcy, landlord–tenant, or employment law.

But what about a more esoteric area of law? Could there be a pro bono need for practice experts like that—such as in patent law?

That was the kind of thinking that led to the creation—the invention, you might say—of a patent law pro bono program. A friend, Diane D’Angelo, shared a recent story with me. It’s from the Denver Post, and you can read the whole thing here.

As the story indicates, the initiative, launched in 2012, involves a bar association and its attorneys in that practice area. The Pro Bono Patent Program is “led by Mi Casa Resource Center and Colorado Bar Association Intellectual Property Section to pair low-income inventors with patent professionals. Since its launch, 67 inventors have begun the application process and two were able to get their ideas patented.”

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office describes the initiative well; it arose from a law signed in 2011:

Patents and the ideas behind them are an engine of the economy (like this Scuderi split-cycle engine).

Patents and the ideas behind them are an engine of the economy (like this Scuderi split-cycle engine).

“The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) understands that one of the main barriers to getting a patent is cost-not necessarily the USPTO fees associated with patents, but the cost of hiring a skilled patent attorney to file and prosecute an application.”

“On September 16, 2011, President Obama signed the America Invents Act (AIA) into law. Section 32 of the AIA specifies that, ‘The Director shall 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.’ ‘Pro bono’ is a Latin phrase meaning ‘done for the public good without compensation.’ With this directive, the USPTO effectively switched into full gear to implement its AIA Pro Bono Program, which it had already been developing in anticipation of the legislation. The president’s ink was still drying when the first client signed with the pilot program in Minnesota. Since that date, the program has expanded to connect clients with volunteer pro bono attorneys across the country in multiple regional programs.”

Read the full history here.

Just as important—and why I share the story now—on May 12, “Mi Casa, the Colorado Bar Association and the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office announced the extension of the program—or ProBoPat—to the states of New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming.”

According to the story, that increases the program’s range to 49 states. And the U.S. PTO shows Arizona as being one of those. Unfortunately, its link to the Grand Canyon State takes you to a California program. So I’m curious: Who in Arizona is participating in or coordinating this program here? (I’m being a little inventive myself and crowd-sourcing the answer!)

If it’s you—or if you know who it is—contact me. I’d like to hear more about patent pro bono in Arizona.

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