WASHINGTON: The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) today announced the recipients of the 2021 Patent Pro Bono Achievement Certificate, recognizing and thanking individuals and law firms that have volunteered significant time and effort to help financially under-resourced inventors and small businesses protect their ideas, positioning them to more fully realize their ideas and dreams.
“Fostering access to our innovation ecosystem is critical to inclusive innovation and to bringing that innovation to impact for the good of all Americans,” said Kathi Vidal, Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Director of the USPTO. “The cost of hiring legal representation to protect one’s intellectual property should not be a barrier to access. I am incredibly grateful to all the recipients for their commitment and great work. Through efforts like theirs, we can create a system that will incentivize all Americans to innovate with the hope and dream that they can bring those innovations to impact, bettering their lives and the lives of all Americans.”
Established under the 2011 America Invents Act, the USPTO’s Patent Pro Bono Program is a nationwide network of independently operated regional programs that match volunteer practitioners with inventors for the purpose of securing patent protection. Each regional program provides services for residents of one or more states. Collectively they cover our entire country.
Last year, the Patent Pro Bono Program surpassed its previous volunteer participation record, with more than 125 patent practitioners reporting 50 or more hours of patent pro bono service to a regional patent pro bono program. In addition, 23 corporations and law firms contributed significant hours to one or more participating regional programs. These volunteers assisted with more than 250 pro bono patent applications filed with the USPTO in 2021.
The 2021 recipients of the Patent Pro Bono Achievement Certificate are listed on the USPTO’s Practitioner Recognition page. The USPTO also recognizes practitioners who have contributed 50 or more hours annually for up to five consecutive years.
To date, more than 3,400 inventors have been matched with a patent practitioner through the Patent Pro Bono Program. Since 2015, these legal professionals have filed nearly 1,800 patent applications on behalf of their pro bono clients. Importantly, not only is the program critical to expanding innovation, but it also has a proven record of expanding it inclusively. Last year, of the applicants who responded to a survey of those who have utilized the pro bono program, 30% identified as African American or Black; 14% as Hispanic; 5.6% as Asian or Pacific Islander; and 1.5% as Native American. Further, 41% of Patent Pro Bono Program applicants who responded to the survey identified as women.
Stressing the value of these programs, Director Kathi Vidal has called for broader participation. “While the work of those we recognize today will make a real impact for our country, we need to scale our programs and assistance. This is the key to unlocking U.S. competitiveness, creating jobs and economic prosperity, and fostering national security. If more people and firms get involved, I’m confident we can better the lives of all Americans and reduce the need for other legal aid.” The USPTO is working on developing additional resources that will allow all practitioners to play a role in patent protection, some under the guidance of skilled patent prosecutors.