The Pro Bono Committee of the BPLA serves to coordinate and support the BPLA community’s involvement in civic, charitable, and educational events. In recent years, efforts have focused on supporting the establishment of a regional pro bono program in New England. The impetus for such a program comes from passage of the America Invents Act (AIA), which includes a directive for the establishment of regional pro bono programs designed to assist financially under-resourced independent inventors and small businesses in protecting their intellectual property. The BPLA has partnered with the USPTO and the Arts & Business Council of Greater Boston/Volunteer Lawyers for the Arts (VLA) to create a regional pro bono program covering eligible inventors in Massachusetts, Maine, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Vermont.
The pro bono program is administered by the VLA, who accepts applications, screens for eligibility, and distributes eligible matters to a panel of volunteer attorneys. A 2012 survey of BPLA membership indicated strong support for the pro bono program and willingness to volunteer in providing legal assistance, but program administrators often find there are not enough attorneys to handle eligible cases. To address this, a primary goal of the pro bono committee this year is to capitalize on existing support by getting more members actively involved. The value of pro bono service is unquestioned in the legal profession and the Pro Bono Committee is sure that anyone who gets involved will find their service rewarding.
An initial first step is as simple as expressing willingness to get involved and to receive notifications from the VLA regarding new pro bono matters. We encourage anyone willing to take this first step to email firstname.lastname@example.org. The Pro Bono Committee is also interested in exploring other ways to encourage community involvement in providing pro bono legal assistance. If you have an interest in helping or ideas for programming, please use the same address to share with the Committee chairpersons!
More About the Patent Pro Bono Program for Attorneys
Attorneys in good standing in Massachusetts, Maine, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and/or Vermont who are also licensed to practice before the USPTO are welcome and encouraged to join the VLA panel of volunteer attorneys. Panel members are emailed every two weeks with a list of potential matters.
More information can be found at the VLA Patent Pro Bono website and the USPTO Attorneys Pro Bono website.
More About the Patent Pro Bono Program for Applicants
This regional patent pro bono program is open to individuals and small businesses in Massachusetts, Maine, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Vermont that meet the program’s income guidelines. The eligibility cap is an adjusted gross income (AGI) under 300% of the federal poverty guidelines. Applicants will be asked to demonstrate financial eligibility by submitting tax documents or equivalent financial information. Also, more than a conceptual idea for an invention is required; an applicant must be able to describe the invention in sufficient detail to explain how someone could make or practice the invention.
How to Apply
- Complete and submit an application for each invention for which you are seeking assistance: Application for Patent Assistance.
- Provide a copy of your most recent tax return showing your adjusted gross income.
- Please include the application fee of $55. You can also pay online by clicking here.
- Send all the above to Megan Low, Arts & Business Council, 15 Channel Center Street #103, Boston MA 02210
Applicants must also complete the USPTO’s Training Module and provide a certificate of completion.
Based on the information in the application, the VLA will send the matter to its panel of volunteer patent attorneys. While the VLA will do its best to place matters in a timely manner and to refer every case, it may not be able to provide urgent assistance due to the nature of the volunteer panel and it cannot guarantee that finding a lawyer to take every case.
More information can be found at the VLA Patent Pro Bono website and the USPTO Inventors Pro Bono website.
USPTO Patent Pro Bono website
Pro Bono Advisory Council list of volunteering firms and corporations (through April 2015)
Hilary Libka, Cooley
Derek Roller, Nutter