The following news story appeared in the July 2011 issue of the ABA-IP electronic newsletter. Lindquist & Vennum was instrumental in the formation of the Inventor Assistance Program.
You can view this story online here.
Read a similar story on the ABA's Center for Pro Bono blog "The Pro Bono Exchange"
The LegalCORPS Inventor Assistance Program was officially launched at the organization’s annual fundraising event on June 8, 2011. An enthusiastic crowd turned out to celebrate and hear a keynote by David Kappos, Undersecretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Director of the United States Patent & Trademark Office (USPTO). An impromptu address by the Honorable Chief Judge Michael Davis of the United States District Court for the District of Minnesota underscored the importance of and support for the program. ABA-IPL was represented at the event by Amy Salmela of Minneapolis, who is the incoming vice chair of the ABA-IPL Pro Bono Committee.
The right time and the right place
The LegalCORPS Inventor Assistance Program originated with Director Kappos. He envisioned a program that would eliminate the great financial hurdle that prohibits independent inventors from bringing great ideas to market.
“This is an idea that has been with me for a long time,” he said. “I knew it was time to get our country working on it.”
He shared his idea with Jim Patterson of Patterson Thuente IP in April of 2010. Over the next year, Patterson and several colleagues worked tirelessly, along with LegalCORPS and the USPTO to secure funding, iron out processes and procedures, and promote the program to generate support and volunteers. The result of those efforts is a first-of-its-kind program that will provide pro bono legal assistance to inventors who wish to patent their inventions. In pilot stage for the next three years, the program will take its first case in the next month or so and will ramp up through referrals from the USPTO.
“Were it not for the vision, initiative, background and knowledge of the Minnesota legal community, we would not be here,” said Kappos.
In his keynote address, Kappos illustrated why this initiative is so important. Over the past year he has spent a great deal of time talking with and listening to independent inventors.
“It’s a difficult situation because in these discussions your heart is lifted, but then sinks down to your shoes,” Kappos explained. “The inventor will describe their invention to you and show pictures and you get excited, realizing that this person has got something really amazing. Then your heart hits the floor when you realize that a lack of access to justice and to the patent system, will keep this person from bringing their invention to market.”
“Now, with this program, we have a way to bring voice to that invention.”
Kappos indicated that the USPTO would stand behind the project and put its own resources to work to ensure its success. His goal is to take the program nationwide, using the LegalCORPS Inventor Assistance Program as a model.