TAKEAWAY: The USPTO recently launched a Patent Trial and Appeal Board Pro Bono Program to connect volunteer patent practitioners with eligible inventors seeking legal assistance with appeals before the PTAB.

On March 24, 2022, the USPTO announced the inauguration of a Patent Trial and Appeal Board Pro Bono Program, which resulted from the joint efforts of the USPTO and the PTAB Bar Association. Through the Program, the PTAB Bar Association will pair pro bono patent practitioners with qualified inventors needing legal guidance in connection with ex parte appeals before the Patent Trial and Appeal Board.

The PTAB Bar Association has already begun to solicit applications via its website from volunteer patent practitioners with ex parte appeal experience. Additionally, starting on June 1, 2022, the PTAB Bar Association will begin soliciting applications via its website from inventors who wish to avail themselves of the services of such volunteer patent practitioners.

To be eligible for pro bono assistance under the Program, an inventor must demonstrate that such inventor (1) resides in the United States, (2) has a gross household income less than three times the federal poverty guidelines, (3) established micro entity status in the application subject to appeal, (4) applied within one month from the date of the office action in which claims have been twice or finally rejected, and (5) reviewed the required training about the Program and the ex parte appeal process.

The USPTO announced the Program as part of its ongoing efforts to serve underrepresented segments of the American inventor community and advance the goal of promoting diversity in innovation and creativity. Since inception of its pro bono efforts in 2011, the USPTO has connected volunteer patent practitioners with thousands of inventors and small businesses who lack the resources to hire patent counsel. In a 2021 survey of applicants, the USPTO found that the percentage of African Americans, Native Americans, Asians, Pacific Islanders, and Hawaiian Natives who have availed themselves of its pro bono services exceeds the percentage of the U.S. population accounted for by each such demographic.

Further information about the Patent Trial and Appeal Board Pro Bono Program and the USPTO’s other pro bono initiatives is available at its website.