As of September 16th, in accordance with the Leahy-Smith America Invents Act, a program will be available for small businesses to address their specific needs related to all steps of the patent filing process. Formally called the Patent Ombudsman Program for Small Business Concerns, it exists as a combination of the existing Office of Innovation Development (OID) and Patent Ombudsman Program. The AIA requires that the USPTO provide and maintain such a resource.
The new program will utilize the services already offered by the preexisting programs. Small businesses and independent inventors can refer to the OID for information on “how to file an application, scam prevention, pro se and pro bono programs, educational materials, and outreach events.” In addition to this, the Patents Ombudsman Program will aid applicants in the prosecution phase, helping to resolve issues that may arise with application-processing. In other words, patentees will be able to seek assistance prior to filing the application, while an application is pending, and after the patent has been issued.
“It seems clear that the USPTO is dedicated to providing support and resources to the specific needs of small businesses and inventors, who tend to be under-resourced and perhaps even intimidated by the patent process,” said Jeff Shieh, Senior Patent Attorney at inovia. “Having a defined patent strategy both domestically and internationally, we find, is crucial to the long-term growth of a small company.”
This program, coupled with the new micro-entity status provision of the AIA (which will qualify some applicants for a discount of up to 75% on fees), will surely bring favorable benefits to innovators. Further information on the provisions of the AIA and their effective dates can be found here.
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