Launched by the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) in 2011, the Patent Pro Bono Program is currently being offered in all 50 states. Regional program administrators match inventors who qualify based on income threshold, residency and other requirements with local patent agents or attorneys licensed to practice before the USPTO. Participating programs are individually run as regional programs available to assist inventors and small businesses in their state or region. The Chicago-Kent Patent Hub is coordinating services to inventors in Illinois.
To qualify for services from the Chicago-Kent Patent Hub, an inventor must be Illinois-based and have a total household income of less than 300% of the federal poverty guidelines issued each year by the Department of Health and Human Services.
In addition, the inventor must demonstrate an understanding of the patent process and what can be done with a patent once it is received. This can be done through the showing of a USPTO-issued filing receipt for a provisional or non-provisional patent application or by successfully completing a USPTO training module found on the pro se/pro bono page of the USPTO website. A certificate of completion is available from that training module.
The inventor must also be able to describe his or her invention. This means not just having an idea for an invention but also being able to explain how someone else could construct the invention.
Finally, an application fee of $100 must be submitted with the inventor's supporting documentation during an intake interview.
Accepted applicants will receive pro bono patent services from licensed patent agents or attorneys. The local Cardinal Law Group is a volunteer in this program.
However, applicants will be responsible for all United States Patent and Trademark Office filing, searching, examination and issuance fees. Applicants will also be responsible for all maintenance fees if the patent issues.
Applicants may approach any IP Service Provider for these services, such as the local Evanston-based Cardinal Intellectual Property for such IP services and Cardinal Law Group for patent preparation and prosecution.