USPTO Creates New Programs to Provide Economic Relief During the PandemicJanuary 24, 2022

Blog by Drew Hirshfeld, Performing the Functions and Duties of the Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Director of the USPTO

In response to a January 2021 Executive Order (EO) on economic relief during the COVID-19 pandemic, we established an Economic Relief Working Group (ERWG) comprised of individuals from across the USPTO to identify and develop programs and strategies to fulfill the goals of the EO – specifically, “to provide the greatest relief to individuals, families, small business; and to State, local, Tribal, and territorial governments.”

Similar to our Council for Inclusive Innovation (CI2) initiative, our goal with this working group is to vastly increase awareness of the benefits of patents and trademarks among aspiring innovators and creators, and to remove barriers to access for those who have historically been underrepresented in the U.S. intellectual property (IP) system. We want more people to utilize our resources to start new companies, develop new products and brands, expand their enterprises and, in some cases, create entirely new industries.

Notably, a year later, we have initiated more than a dozen projects for achieving this goal. Below we’ve highlighted just a few new and upcoming programs.

Expanding USPTO resources to wider audiences

We will soon unveil an “AccessUSPTO Pilot Program” aimed at providing IP training to new audiences through enhanced collaboration with national organizations who assist small businesses and creators not traditionally versed in IP. With this new program, we hope to reach more aspiring inventors and entrepreneurs and empower them with the tools they need to protect their ideas, creations, and brands.

Another upcoming program is the Tribal Nations Partnership, a year-long initiative to assist Native Americans, Alaska Natives, and Native Hawaiians who are interested in establishing or expanding their e-commerce presence, through monthly sessions focused on topics ranging from entrepreneurship to marketing and planning. We also are expanding our IP education programs to regions of the country that have been underrepresented in the innovation economy through strategic collaboration with Historically Black Colleges and Universities, Hispanic Serving Institutions, Tribal Colleges and Universities, and community colleges to offer training and outreach programs that seek to broaden participation in the innovation ecosystem at all levels.

Enhanced Training opportunities for filing applications

In addition, through our new Stakeholder Application Readiness Training (StART) program, which will launch as a pilot program this spring, a selected group of aspiring inventors will be able to participate in a three-day intensive training program on the application process to empower them with the tools and knowledge to successfully file a patent application. Further, the ERWG will be piloting a Customer Ambassador Program this summer to help a selected group of individual or joint inventors file on their own and avoid common mistakes throughout the application process.

New pro bono programs

The costs of preparing a patent application should never discourage those who want to protect their inventions. That’s why for many years, the regional not-for-profit organizations that make up the Patent Pro Bono Program have endeavored to match volunteer patent professionals with financially under-resourced inventors and small businesses in their regions for the purpose of securing patent protection. Based on the success of the program, not only will we be launching a new Patent Trial and Appeal Board (PTAB) pro bono program in 2022, but we will also soon be starting a new Trademark Trial and Appeal Board (TTAB) pro bono program. These programs will provide free legal assistance to financially under-resourced individuals and businesses involved in patent or trademark proceedings before the Boards. These important programs were born out of our valued collaborations with the PTAB Bar Association and the International Trademark Association (INTA), and will connect volunteer member attorneys with those eligible inventors and entrepreneurs seeking legal assistance to secure and defend their patents and trademark registrations.

For those interested in learning more about how to apply for a patent or trademark registration, we encourage you to visit our redesigned inventor and entrepreneur resources page. Additionally, we recently launched a new free services page that highlights the many intellectual property resources we provide at no cost. As always, we welcome your feedback, and invite you to join us at one of our upcoming Patent Public Advisory Committee meetings or Trademark Public Advisory Committee meetings.

Our economy thrives when we put American innovators first. We are honored to do our part to assist all those whose ideas drive our economy forward.

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