The Federal Circuit Bar Association began operating a national clearinghouse service Oct. 21 that will help match patent applicants with registered patent professionals willing to offer pro bono prosecution services.
The clearinghouse was formed by agreement with the Patent and Trademark Office as an offshoot to a commitment the PTO was required to undertake pursuant to Section 32 of the America Invents Act (Pub. L. 112-29, 125 Stat. 284 (2011)): “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.”
“USPTO is thrilled to be working with FCBA on this critical initiative, for the first time providing innovative Americans access to patent law services they otherwise would not be able to afford,” PTO Director David Kappos said in the FCBA's Oct. 19 press release.
According to the PTO's AIA microsite, the agency earlier announced it was “on the lookout for a single entry point for anyone interested in pro bono assistance.” The FCBA will be filling that role.
Terence P. Stewart, president of the FCBA, said in the press release: “We are pleased that the Association can provide this service to the patent community, by providing trained attorneys to those who otherwise could not afford assistance, and to our members by continuing to expand the opportunities for meaningful pro bono service.”
Regional associations have been set up in Minnesota, Colorado, California, and Texas, and others are in the works. The PTO expects at least 10 additional regional programs to open in 2013.
The FCBA national clearinghouse will serve as the central repository for patent applicants to make requests and for regional associations to indicate their interest in participating.
“In order to logistically manage applicants to the programs, it has been decided that there should be a single intake and initial screening authority,” according to the FCBA's pro bono website. “This authority or 'clearing house' will take the responsibility of collecting all eligible individuals and businesses and forwarding those qualifying to their respective regional program.”
Patent applicants must fill out a pro bono request form on the FCBA website. The FCBA will perform an initial screening for qualification and then forward the application to the appropriate regional association.
Also as of Oct. 21, the FCBA began service as the regional association that will help to match patent applicants in the Maryland, Virginia, and the District of Columbia area with local attorneys willing to provide services pro bono.
“The FCBA invites volunteer patent attorneys from its membership in all technology areas to express an interest in program participation,” the press release stated. “The goal will be to assemble a large pool of volunteers so that qualified attorneys can be matched to the inventors.”
Attorneys planning to offer services should complete a “PTO Pro Bono Regional Volunteer Attorney Information Submission” on FCBA website.
By Tony Dutra
FCBA program information at http://www.fedcirbar.org/ptoprobono
PTO pro bono information at http://www.uspto.gov/aia_implementation/programs.jsp
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