USPTO’s Pro Bono Program helps solve inventor’s quest for a patent that ‘was going to be impossible’
When Michael Lopez noticed that the delivery ramps on trucks he drove failed to fit delivery locations and led to serious injury for delivery people, he set out to solve the problem. But he had a problem of his own.
After developing the Halo Ramp—a portable ramp designed with a pivot to allow maneuverability, user convenience, and maximum safety—he knew he would need a patent attorney if he was to get a utility patent for his invention.
“This was out of reach financially for me,” he said. “It was still out of reach. It was going to be impossible.”
Then a delivery customer told him about LegalCORPS’s Inventor Assistance Program, which connected him to legal services provided by some of Minnesota’s best patent lawyers.
Now he is the proud owner of two patents for his “Delivery ramp with an adjustable, rotatable pivot” invention: U.S. Patent Nos. 9,694,997, issued July 4, 2017, and 10,807,814, issued October 20, 2020. He also received a grant from the Minnesota Department of Economic Development.
LegalCORPS is one of 21 regional programs that make up the USPTO’s Patent Pro Bono Program, a nationwide network of independently operated regional programs that match volunteer patent professionals with financially under-resourced inventors and small businesses throughout the United States to secure patent protection. Find services near you by searching your state at uspto.gov/locations.
Another USPTO service for lower-income individuals and companies is the Law School Clinic Certification Program (LSCCP), which includes over 60 participating law school clinics that provide legal services pro bono to inventors, entrepreneurs, and small businesses.
Participating law school clinics provide patent and/or trademark legal services to qualified members of the public who are accepted as a client of a clinic.
Through the Patent Pro Bono Program and LegalCORPS, Lopez was able to bring his vision to market and help protect fellow delivery people.
Both the Patent Pro Bono Program and LSCCP have mandatory income thresholds and other requirements for accepting new clients. To determine whether you may qualify and for other information, go to http://uspto.gov/PatentProBono and http://uspto.gov/LawSchoolClinic.