USPTO First-Time Filer Pilot Program – Patent Pro Bono Program

Jennifer, a white woman with white hair, wears a peach blouse, pearls, and a black blazer. By Jennifer Knight

The USPTO now offers the First-Time Filer Expedited Examination Pilot Program, which is designed to increase accessibility to the patent system for inventors who are new to the patent application process, including those in historically underserved geographic and economic areas. Information on the program and how inventors can apply may be found on the USPTO’s website.

Qualifying inventors for the First-Time Filer Pilot must be filing their first non-provisional application, qualify for micro-entity status, and be reasonably trained on the basics of the USPTO’s patent application process. There is no fee to petition for the First-Time Filer Pilot, which expedites the first office action.

Clients served by NCBA Intellectual Property Law Section attorney volunteers through the USPTO Patent Pro Bono Program (administered in North Carolina by the North Carolina Bar Foundation) qualify for micro-entity status and meet the training requirement for this new program. The wealth threshold and training, as well as having an invention ready for patenting, are all confirmed by NCBF partner Georgia Patents before NCBF pro bono programs staff match inventors with volunteer Patent Attorneys / Patent Agents.

In June, I filed a Non-Provisional Patent Application on behalf of a Patent Pro Bono Program Client. She had, pro se, filed a Provisional Patent Application in December 2022. We followed the First-Time Filer Pilot Program process by filing through the Patent Center, filing the specification, claims and abstract in DOCX format, filing the petition, etc. We are both very excited that, assuming the petition is accepted, she will likely receive her first office action in four to six months. Our engagement letter noted that our attorney/client relationship ended with the filing of the Non-Provisional Patent Application. I advised the client to reach out to NCBF/Georgia Patents as soon as she receives the First Office Action. I hope to be available to help with the Office Action.

We have Patent Pro Bono Clients waiting to be matched with a volunteer Patent Attorney or Patent Agent. Please consider helping one of these clients.

  • Client #1: Inventor is a serial inventor who was inspired to help people use their phones without using their hands. His invention can be used in or outside of a car, is easy to attach, secure and suitable for any age.
  • Client #2: Inventor meditates and finds that being outside is a form of meditation. To encourage others to be out-of-doors, he has come up with a fishing lure that incorporates many aspects of mediation practice, including sound, vibration, light and piezoelectric activity. The lure results in a new fishing experience creating peace of mind, is easy to use and is made from eco-friendly materials.
  • Client #3: Inventor suffered a stroke and created a game for stroke survivors. This invention is a novel opportunity for stroke survivors and those with limited motor skills to rehabilitate in a unique and enjoyable way.
  • Client #4: From various travels, the inventor came to desire a more comfortable pillow that could accommodate the thumb, fingers, and hand. The current market lacks a pillow that is suitable for both the head and the hands.

To volunteer to work with one of these clients, simply send an email to [email protected]. If you have any questions, feel free to reach out to me at [email protected].

You can find more information from the USPTO on their website. Information specific to NC and a volunteer sign-up form can be found on this page.

Jennifer Knight serves as the Pro Bono Committee Co-Chair.