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eMerge Americas announcement: Patent pro-bono program for qualified inventors

By Nancy Dahlberg / ndahlberg@miamiherald.com

At eMerge Americas on Monday, The Institute for Commercialization of Public Research will announce  the launch of the Florida Patent Pro Bono Program in partnership with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office.

The program links qualified inventors and small businesses with volunteer patent agents and attorneys who provide pro bono legal assistance on specific aspects of the patent process, and with Florida's launch it is now active in nearly all 50 states. In 2011, the U.S. Congress passed the America Invents Act, which called for the USPTO to establish the regional patent programs.

"We're so happy to be launching in Florida," said Jennifer McDowell, USPTO pro-bono coordinator, adding that the Sunshine State has a large number of patent filings and under-resourced inventors.

The Institute will match up low-income inventors with patent lawyers, in order to level the playing field. "It's an issue of fairness and economic development. When you unlock that innovation, that is how you make a difference," said McDowell in an interview on Friday. "And once these matches get made and the patent applications get filed, we want the inventions to turn into money making machines."

If accepted into the  Florida Patent Pro Bono Program, applicants may expect exposure to intellectual property experts, support in certain aspects of the patent application process, and partnership opportunities to enhance business development. The legal services would be free; the inventors would still need to pay the patent filing fees but could qualify for steep discounts.

“The Institute is pleased to be administering this important program for Florida inventors, which promotes entrepreneurship, job growth and innovation-based economic development,” said Jamie Grooms, CEO of the Institute. “The Florida Patent Pro Bono Program will accelerate the commercialization of important new products and enable Florida companies to compete more effectively in the global economy.”

More information on the program is available at www.florida-institute.com and www uspto.gov. the Institute is also looking for more patent attorneys who want to volunteer. The announcement is scheduled to  be made about 1:15 p.m. on the expo stage of eMerge Americas.

The Institute  is a non-profit organization that works  with  technology licensing and commercialization offices of Florida’s state universities and private research institutions to leverage a $2 billion-plus research base and form investable companies that create jobs.  Thirty-eight companies have been funded since the program’s inception.

Follow Nancy Dahlberg on Twitter @ndahlberg.