How do I sign up for a Pro Bono Case?
TN PATENTS sends out a bi-weekly newsletter with available patents cases. The case list is also available on our website on the Available Patents Cases page. If you see a case that interests you, just send us an email at firstname.lastname@example.org with the ID number and Title of the case.
Additionally, if a case is not placed after a few newsletters or a “hot date” is approaching, we may reach out to you directly by email if we feel the case is a good fit with your area of patent expertise. In these instances, the cases will appear the same way they do in the newsletter. If you are able to assist, you can accept the case simply by replying to the email. Tennessee PATENTS will only contact you for the areas of practice you indicated on the Attorney Member Form.
What happens once I “accept” a Pro Bono Case?
If you agree to take a pro bono case, Tennessee PATENTS will first forward you the client’s name, contact information, and and available invention details so you can properly run a conflicts check.
Because of the time-sensitive nature of the patents process, we ask that you complete the conflicts check and let Tennessee PATENTS know the outcome of the check within ten business days. If it will take longer, please notify Tennessee PATENTS. After ten business days, we will place the client back into the pool of available cases.
Should the client pass conflicts, we will forward your contact information to the client, who will contact you directly within 3 business days.
You will also receive an email officially assigning you the case that contains the client’s contact information and several informational documents.
What if the client does not contact me?
Tennessee PATENTS generally follows up with clients three business days after notifying them of their assigned attorney to ensure they have contacted you.
However, if you do not hear from the client within the allotted time, please contact Tennessee PATENTS via email, and we will attempt to contact the client to have them reach out to you.
What is Tennessee PATENTS’s role once the client makes contact?
Once the client contacts you, Tennessee PATENTS steps out of the picture. All services are strictly between you and the client. Tennessee PATENTS does not have an attorney-client relationship with the inventor. Our only involvement will be quarterly update emails that we use to keep track of how cases are progressing.
These quarterly emails contain a short form for you to complete. This form is important because it allows us to gather the statistics we are required to report back to the USPTO to retain our funding and ensure the continuation of our program to assist under-resourced inventors.
Additionally, because Tennessee PATENTS does not share an “attorney-client” relationship with its clients, we do not retain copies of client materials or even have knowledge of the invention beyond a general description. This ensures we do not trigger a disclosure date.
Am I the client’s general counsel?
No, the Tennessee PATENTS program places patents cases solely for preparation and filing of the application.
While you are welcome to assist clients with prosecution of the application or with new issues that arise, related or not, we set the expectation with clients that you will work solely to prepare and submit the patent application.
What do I do when I complete my representation?
At the completion of your representation, please fill out our online Pro Bono Report or indicate your completion on the quarterly update. The link to this report will be provided in our monthly update emails.
The completion of this form is necessary for several reasons. Tennessee PATENTS uses this information to track the hours and value of the services provided, which helps us obtain grants to continue our work and improve our services, and gives us the data necessary to provide to the USPTO.