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USPTO Expands Pro Bono Patent Help to California, D.C.

Golden Gate Bridge, A. Kotok

(A. Kotok)

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office is expanding pro bono legal assistance on patents in California and the District of Columbia. The America Invents Act, signed into law last year, calls for USPTO to establish regional pro bono legal help programs on patent issues.

In California, USPTO will partner with the organization California Lawyers for the Arts as part of its lawyer referral service, to provide help to inventors that might otherwise be unable to afford professional patent protection. In D.C., the Federal Circuit Bar Association will collaborate with USPTO, and provide help to inventors in Maryland and Virginia, as well as D.C.

The Federal Circuit Bar Association will also serve as the National Clearing House for pro bono patent assistance. The group will collect information from interested individuals and businesses, provide an initial eligibility screening based on financial need and other factors, and forward the information on eligible applicants to a regional pro bono organization to match an attorney with the applicant.

The America Invents Act calls for USPTO to establish pro bono patent-assistance programs for under-financed independent inventors and small businesses, working through regional bar associations. USPTO plans to supplement the regional programs with an online portal for pro bono assistance, including an application, invention disclosure form, online seminar, and list of programs in the various states.

USPTO says it has so far established four pro bono programs in the U.S. and plans to start 10 more by the end of 2013.

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