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2021 BPLA Invented Here!
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The Patent Pro Bono Program of New England
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Diversity & Inclusion Committee Holds Roundtable Discussion
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Doctrine of Equivalents and Infringement in the UK Courts
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Impact and Consequences of the Controversial Unconstitutional Patent Term Extension in Brazil
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Making the Case for Sleep: New Science for the Legal ProfessionIn House Committee: The New Normal
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In Memoriam: John Doll
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Patent Office Practice Virtual Lunch Discussion
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Volume 52, Issue 3
The Patent Pro Bono Program of New England: An Exciting Way to Give Back
Lucas Blackadar, Arts & Business Council of Greater Boston
Innovation activity has soared within the past year. Despite the challenges of the COVID-19 Pandemic, inventors have turned long hours of quarantine into opportunities to bring their ideas to fruition. Yet the cost of legal services could keep many of these inventions from ever entering the market. This is where the Patent Pro Bono Program of New England steps in.
The program, run by the Arts & Business Council of Greater Boston, Inc., in partnership with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (“USPTO”) and the Boston Patent Law Society, matches financially under-resourced independent inventors, non-profits, and small businesses with volunteer patent practitioners who help prepare, file, and prosecute patent applications. The Patent Pro Bono Program was created as part of the America Invents Act, which tasked the USPTO to work with and support intellectual property organizations in the establishment of pro bono programs across the United States. It is a first-of-its-kind initiative by a federal agency.
In order to encourage participation, the USPTO incentivizes volunteering by publicly recognizing volunteers who provide at least fifty hours of hours of patent pro bono service in a calendar year to inventors. Qualifying volunteers receive a certificate signed by the Commissioner for Patents and the Director of the Office of Enrollment and Discipline. Law firms and corporations that provide volunteer patent practitioners who contribute hours above a Given threshold based on firm size also may receive a certificate and recognition on USPTO’s website.
While the USPTO encourages the formation of patent pro bono programs across the United States, the heart and soul are regional programs like the Arts and Business Council of Greater Boston’s Patent Pro Bono Program of New England and the volunteers that work with them. The USPTO collaborates with the regional programs to reach out to law firms, bar associations, or other IP related groups to highlight the need for volunteer patent practitioners and the benefits of volunteering.
pportunities for service are limitless and can be tailored according to the attorney’s availability. In addition to representing a client in the full prosecution of a non-provisional patent, volunteers can also provide limited consultations on patents, patentability, and the patent application process; contribute to an educational workshop; or even provide limited assistance in a clinic. To date, the Patent Pro Bono Program of New England is powered by over 300 volunteer attorneys from over 150 organizations, including large law firms, technology companies, and solo practices.
Program clients come from all over the New England region and from a wealth of diverse backgrounds, including students, parents, teachers, scientists, and artists. Regardless, all clients have an entrepreneurial spirit. Additionally, inventions represent the entire technological spectrum: most applicants seeking services through the Patent Pro Bono Program of New England have mechanical- or materials-based inventions, but many inventions also involve life sciences, medicine, aerospace, electronics, and even A.I. and machine intelligence.
The Patent Pro Bono Program’s impact cannot be overstated: the Arts & Business Council estimates that each year, its volunteer patent panel donates over 300 hours of legal assistance, which can represent one of the largest costs of obtaining a patent.
The need for assistance is higher now than ever. While the coronavirus pandemic has challenged households, businesses, and entire regions, there has also been an encouraging increase in innovation activity. In 2021 alone, the Patent Pro Bono Program has already received nearly 50 applications for patent assistance—already exceeding its typical annual demand. Inventions include everything from household consumer goods to new potential biochemical discoveries.
Patent attorneys and agents of all technological disciplines who are interested in serving a diverse client base and supporting the New England innovative community are encouraged to volunteer with the Patent Pro Bono Program of New England by contacting VLA@artsandbusinesscouncil.org!
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