“IP”ro Bono

Attendees at the PBI Annual Conference last month had the opportunity to learn about an exciting new pilot initiative called the Minnesota LegalCorps Inventor Assistant Program John Calvert from the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) and Candee Goodman from Lindquist & Vennum PLLP*† were on hand to speak about the program and educate attendees as to how this can be a resource for IP lawyers looking to do pro bono work, while helping jumpstart the U.S. economy.  Independent inventors fuel innovation that can inspire inventions and create new businesses and jobs.  However, they often need legal help they cannot afford.

Minnesota’s legal community has come together to provide pro bono legal services to eligible individuals with the patent application process.  In addition to providing legal assistance, the program strives to reduce the USPTO backlog created by pro se filers.  With support from the business community, law schools, the judiciary, the Federal Circuit Bar Association, and other organizations, the goal is to expand by five more similar programs across the country by the end of 2012 in Denver, the Washington, D.C. Metro Area, Northern and Southern California, and Texas.  Recently, Fenwick & West LLP*†, in conjunction with Intel**and California Lawyers for the Arts, agreed to be the founding members of the steering committee established to assist the USPTO in launching the Northern California Pro Bono Patent Program.

More than 180 patent attorneys have volunteered their time so far to support the Minnesota project.  Candee Goodman recently told Minnesota Lawyer:

A lot of patent lawyers are reluctant to handle a divorce [pro bono] because it is a foreign language to them.  The law is constantly changing, and it’s unrealistic for them to be up to date on everything.  One of the things this program will do is open up the opportunity to provide pro bono work to a whole new segment of the legal community.

Attendees described John and Candee’s presentation as being “especially interesting” and “inspiring”.  Stay tuned for more Conference highlights!

Do you know of other exciting programs that allow IP lawyers the chance to get involved in pro bono?  If so, drop us a comment below.

* denotes a Signatory to the Law Firm Pro Bono Challenge®
† denotes a Member of the Law Firm Pro Bono Project
** denotes a Signatory to the Corporate Pro Bono ChallengeSM