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In a post to the US Patent and Trademark Office (“USPTO”) blog entitled Intellectual property resources in your area, which was published on 24 June 2019, Mr Andrei Iancu, Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Director of the USPTO wrote:
“Providing entrepreneurs, small businesses, and independent inventors with access to intellectual property (IP) resources is one of the major priorities for the USPTO. These entities are vital to our country’s economy, but they often don’t have the same resources that larger entities can leverage to protect their innovations. Because of that, the USPTO oversees several programs to assist with free or reduced-cost help in applying for patents, including the Patent Pro Bono Program, the Pro Se Assistance Program, the Certified Law School Clinic Program, and Patent and Trademark Resource Centers. That’s all in addition to the reduced filing fees we charge to small and micro entities.”
Entrepreneurs, small businesses and independent inventors are as important to the British (and probably every other advanced country’s) economy as they are to the American economy. At the very least, we can learn from Mr Iancu’s blog post. British inventors and entrepreneurs seeking US patents and trade marks may even be able to take advantage of some of the facilities and resources that Mr Iancu mentions.
The USPTO is the intellectual property office for the USA. Because patents can be granted for new plant varieties under 35 USC § 161 and new, original, and ornamental designs for articles of manufacture under 35 USC § 171 which are equivalent to plant breeders; rights and registered designs in the UK as well as for inventions it performs functions that are carried out by the Plant Varieties Rights Office as well as the Intellectual Property Office in this country. Unlike the IPO, the USPTO has no responsibility for copyright. There is a separate Copyright Office within the Library of Congress for copyright and related rights in the USA.
Patent Pro Bono Program
Inventors and small businesses that meet certain financial thresholds and other criteria may be eligible for free legal assistance in preparing and filing patent applications under the Patent Pro Bono Program. This is a nationwide network of independently operated regional programmes that match financially under-resourced inventors and small businesses with volunteer patent attorneys and patent agents.
Pro Se Assistance Programme
“Pro se” is Latin for “on his (or her) own behalf” and refers to what we would call “unrepresented parties”, that is to say, inventors or other applicants who file patent applications without the assistance of a US qualified patent attorney or patent agent. The Pro Se Assistance Program offers a number of services to the public prior to filing, including:
- Dedicated personnel to assist with pre-filing questions including:
- An explanation of different types of application filings
- Assistance with forms completions and filings
- Reviewing application (e.g. Specification, Drawings, and Claims) for compliance with current regulations
- In-person assistance for the general public at USPTO Headquarters at Alexandria in Virginia regarding pre-filing
- Targeted support to connect applicants with relevant resources and information
- Online resources found on pro se assistance programme page.
The page also contains some very useful videos. It is the resource that inventors and advisors outside the USA are likely to find most useful.
Law School Clinic Certification Program
Patent and Trademark Resource Centers
“computerized searching of patents, trademarks, and copyrights. Library users perform their own searches. Computers are available on a first-come, first served basis. Ask library staff for instructions on use. Use of intellectual property databases is free, but printing is $.25 per page. We also have collections in print and microfilm. During regular library hours, we provide some assistance by telephone at 213-228-7220.”
There is a lot of general information on patents, trade secrets, trade marks and other IP rights on the library’s web page. The USPTO lists patent and trade mark resource centres on its PTRC locations by state web page.
Anybody wishing to discuss this article or the resources available to inventors and SME in this or any other country should call me during office hours on +44 (0)20 7404 5252 or send me a message through my contact form.