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Searchable FAQ
How do I update my account or invention information?

If you need to update your account information, simply login to PatentConnect and select the “Account” button at the top of the page. To update invention information, select the “Update Invention” button, also located at the top of the page.

How do I deactivate my account?

To deactivate your account, contact the Admin

What are PatentConnect's Terms of Use?

1. PatentConnect does not warrant the skills, experience, abilities or any other qualifications of patent attorneys that register or are otherwise associated with its service. It is your responsibility to determine the worthiness of the patent attorney(s) that assists you.
2. Registering with PatentConnect and submitting information about your invention does not guarantee that you will be matched with a patent attorney.
3. Patent rights are time sensitive. Any delay in filing a patent application may result in you losing patent rights. PatentConnect's matching process takes time, which may or may not put your patent rights at risk. PatentConnect is not responsible for any loss of patent rights attributable to delayed filing of a patent application for any reason. It is your responsibility to ensure that your patent application is filed timely.
4. Any attorney, including those associated with PatentConnect, may limit the scope of their representation of you. Subject to the applicable rules of professional conduct (including those of the United States Patent and Trademark Office), attorneys may terminate their representation of you without your consent at any time.
5. Attorneys are not obligated to provide pro bono (i.e. free) legal services. Providing pro bono services is voluntary. You are responsible for any third party expenses incurred on your matter. These expense may include, but are not limited to, patent office fees, patent drawing fees, patent search fees provided by third parties, postage, document copying, etc. It is your responsibility to confirm with your attorney what costs, fees, etc. that you will or will not be responsible for. PatentConnect does not provide financial assistance to inventors.
6. Indiana University, the Indiana Maurer School of Law, the Center for Intellectual Property Research at the Indiana Maurer School of Law, and their employees, volunteers, students, etc. are not liable for the disclosure of any information that you provide to PatentConnect. Your information will be shared with patent attorneys during the matching process and within the PatentConnect Marketplace.
7. Registration and access to PatentConnect may be denied, terminated, or otherwise cancelled at any time and for any reason.
8. Upon PatentConnect's request, you agree to provide periodic updates on the status of your patent matter.

How secure is the information I am providing during registration?

PatentConnect will make every reasonable effort to secure all inventor information. One of the primary ways that we protect your information is to limit the data that we actually collect. Access to that information is restricted only to registered patent attorneys—who are bound by professional obligations to keep this information in strict confidence. However, in order to enhance the security of your information, we strongly suggest you use a robust (i.e., mix of capital and lowercase characters, numbers, symbols) and unique password for your account.

Will PatentConnect ever sell my information?

No. PatentConnect is supported by the Indiana University Maurer School of Law’s Center for Intellectual Property Research and the USPTO, and has no interest in or mechanism for commercialization.

Who will be able to see my information?

Patent attorneys that have registered and been verified by the PatentConnect Admin will be able to view disclosure information. This is necessary to connect you with one of the attorneys that have registered with PatentConnect. However, during the connection process, only the attorney with whom you have been matched will be able to see this information. If PatentConnect is unable to connect you with an attorney, parts of your disclosure will be listed in the Marketplace where attorneys can then browse and select new clients that have not been connected. Access to the Marketplace will be strictly limited to attorneys that have been registered and verified by PatentConnect.

Will I be required to enter any private information (e.g., SSN, Tax ID)?

Only your demographic information, limited income information, and information about your invention will be required. As a security measure, PatentConnect only collects the information necessary to successfully connect you with an attorney.

Is the USPTO training really required before registration?

No. You can register now, and complete the training whenever you have the opportunity. Once you’re registered with PatentConnect, you’ll also find links and other helpful information for accessing the USPTO training module

Why do we have to take the training?

Not only do both the USPTO and PatentConnect require that you complete the training, but you should take an interest in the material regardless. The patent system is incredibly complex. Although the USPTO’s thirty-nine minute training session may not lead to you mastering the US patent system, it will give you the basics and will allow you to better prepare for the path ahead.

What is a “Prior Art Search”?

According to US patent law, to receive a patent on any invention, that invention must be “new, non-obvious, and useful.” The way that we know whether an invention is “new” is to look for similar inventions that already exist. This is called a “prior art search.” It consists of a survey of patent and non-patent literature to make sure no one else has already invented the thing you are trying to patent. While a thorough prior art search takes time and experience, you should try your best at conducting your own search before going to an attorney. We suggest that you use Google’s (or another search engine’s) general search engine to try and locate similar inventions or disclosures. Also look at Google’s patent database for prior art Make sure to provide your attorney and the USPTO with these results, as it’s often required by US patent law.

How can I check to see if I have connected with an attorney?

Once you have created your account, you will be directed to Status page after logging in. This page will show the status of any request you have made on PatentConnect.

I no longer need pro bono services but have not yet been connected with an attorney, how do I cancel my request for services?

All requests for service operate on an invention-by-invention basis. To cancel your request for assistance, simply select the Update Invention button. The option is located in the last panel at the bottom of the screen. If you need to cancel your request for any reason, please do so as soon as possible. Attorneys usually need to do some preliminary work before contacting inventors so an attorney could already be looking into your case—even if you haven’t been contacted yet.

What is a patent?

A patent is a form of protection for intellectual property that secures an inventor’s right to exclude others from practicing that invention for a fixed period of time. The most common type of patent is called a utility patent, which protects inventions for new and useful processes, machines, manufactures, or compositions of matter for a period of twenty years from the date when you first file your utility application (also referred to as a non-provisional patent application). The other less common forms of patents are design patents—which protect ornamental features embodied in or applied to an article of manufacture—and plant patents.

What is the difference between a patent, a trademark, and a copyright?

Patents protect new and useful inventions and can last up to twenty years. Copyrights protect creative expressions that have been fixed in a tangible medium. The duration of most copyrights extends for the entire life of the creator and for a fixed period after. Trademarks protect words, images, and other indicators that are intended to identify a brand or product. A trademark may be a recognizable sign, design, or expression, which identifies the source of goods or services. Trademarks last indefinitely, as long as they are in use. Although some of these protections overlap in certain areas, patents are often the appropriate mechanism for protecting most inventions and the only form of protection for which PatentConnect offers pro bono matching services.

How do I know if my invention is eligible to receive patent protection?

The first step is to perform a prior art search (see “What is a ‘Prior Art Search’?” above). If after this search you still think your invention is new, you should talk to an attorney. The patent system is incredibly intricate, complicated, and always changing. It takes time to master; but that is what patent attorneys are for. Your attorney will guide you through the process and explain it along the way. However, you are encouraged to research the issue further to increase your understating of the patent process.

How long do I have to file a patent application?

It is generally in your best interest to file for patent protection as soon as possible. If someone else files for a patent on your invention, or discloses it before you do, you will likely lose the ability to patent your invention. While there are many detailed rules about how long you have to file a patent application, there generally is not a firm deadline as long as your invention remains a secret. However, if you publicly disclose your invention to anyone—either by telling someone, by selling it, by advertising it, etc.—you only have one year from the date of disclosure to file. When you register an invention with PatentConnect, please be sure to detail any possible disclosures (public or private) and list any dates that you may have for them.

How long will it take to get a patent?

You should not expect to receive patent protection on your invention for several years. There are many factors that determine how long the patent process will take. Many applications take over three years to receive a first office action from the USPTO; many take much longer. However, filing a patent is the first step to receiving protection, and that is the step we're here to help you focus on now.

The USPTO Pro Bono training provided me with a lot of useful information, where can I find more information about how the patent system works?

There are a host of great resources for inventors at USPTO.gov. As a starting point, check out the links provided below:

There are also a host of informative books published to educate inventors. We suggest checking out your local library, or, if possible, the nearest law library.

After my attorney files for a patent, what happens next?

Once you file an application with the USPTO it must be examined by a patent examiner. Patent examination is a detailed process that takes time. This, combined with the tremendous number of patents that are filed annually, have resulted in a backlog for the USPTO - meaning that most examiners are not able to respond to applications for 2-3 years after they are filed. You should talk to your attorney about the specifics, but after your application is filed, you must wait to hear back from the examiner.

Do I qualify for pro bono services through the PatentConnect Match program?

There are four basic criteria that you must meet in order to qualify for pro bono services through PatentConnect's Matching program:

  • Must live or work full time in the State of Indiana
  • Must earn no more than a certain amount. The exact income limit is set by the volunteer patent attorney.
  • Must have completed the USPTO’s training module
  • Must meet all of the timing requirements (i.e., not within a month of needing to file a patent)

Even if you do not meet all of these criteria, you are still encouraged to register for an account and submit inventions. You may still be able to receive assistance from an attorney through PatentConnect’s Marketplace.

I did not qualify for pro bono services through PatentConnect's Matching program when I registered previously but my circumstances have changed, and I think that I now qualify. Can I register my invention again?

No. You do not need to register your invention again. All you need to do is update your Account or Invention information. The invention is already in the system. If you submit this as a new invention, you will go to the back of the line. By updating your information, however, you will be credited for the accrued time in the system.

Do I need a prototype of my invention in order to qualify for pro bono services through PatentConnect?

No. It is only required that your invention be more than a mere idea. This means that you must have some real details about the invention. Your attorney will provide you with more specifics, but a prototype is not necessary to qualify.

Someone has infringed on my patent or I have been accused of patent infringement, can PatentConnect help me?

No. Unfortunately PatentConnect only provides services to inventors that are looking to file an application with the USPTO or prosecute an application before the USPTO.

When registering, I am asked how many patents I have filed. Does this include provisional patents or only utility, design, and plant applications?

This number does not include provisional patents. It also does not include patents filed with patent offices other than the USPTO. All other patent applications filed with the USPTO do count towards this number, however.

My eligibility for the pro bono program may have changed since I registered for an account (e.g., invention rights assigned to another entity, income rose above maximum threshold), do I have to disclose this to PatentConnect or my attorney?

If you have not yet been connected with an attorney, please update your account information immediately through the Account or Update Invention buttons. If you have already been connected to an attorney, you must also inform the attorney of the changes.

Who determines the criteria for eligibility for pro bono services?

Indiana University Maurer School of Law’s Center for Intellectual Property Research has worked with the USPTO and the volunteer attorneys to set the general guidelines for pro bono eligibility for the programs.

Why are PatentConnect’s services directed towards the state of Indiana?

Only the Matching program is reserved for Indiana inventors. The USPTO has set out to facilitate and encourage pro bono patent services throughout the country. The Office has done this by allowing each state or region to establish its own framework for implementation. PatentConnect is the embodiment of this effort for the State of Indiana. As such, applicants must be from Indiana. For services in other states, check the USPTO’s pro bono page. Out of state inventors are still encouraged to register and submit inventions, as they are still eligible to receive assistance through PatentConnect’s Marketplace.

I live in Indiana but thought up or worked on my invention out of state, can I still use PatentConnect or should I look for pro bono services in another state?

In order to qualify for pro bono services through PatentConnect’s Matching program, you need to have an address within the state of Indiana or work full time (and file your taxes) there. If you work full time in Indiana but reside in another state, please make sure to clearly indicate this in your registration form. However, an Indiana address is not required to receive assistance through PatentConnect’s Marketplace program.

Do I need an attorney to file a patent application or can I just do it myself?

An inventor is always allowed to file his or her own application with the USPTO. However, it is unlikely that doing so is in your best interest. Writing a patent application is a highly technical process that takes years of education and experience to master. Even further, many mistakes made during drafting cannot be corrected later on, which may preclude you from protecting your invention in the future.

What can I expect from my attorney?

The precise scope of the relationship with your attorney will be defined by your attorney him/herself. In general, PatentConnect’s purpose is to connect inventors with attorneys that will research, draft, and/or file an application with the USPTO or respond to Office Actions sent by the USPTO. Although PatentConnect attempts to connect inventors to attorneys for all these services, you should not necessarily expect the attorney who helped you research, draft, and/or file the application to also help you respond to Office Actions. Securing pro bono services for multiple aspects of patent prosecution will require separate requests through PatentConnect. You should not expect any legal services beyond that scope.

Are attorneys paid by or affiliated with the PatentConnect site in any way?

All attorneys that have registered with PatentConnect have agreed to provide their services pro bono, meaning free of charge. This is because they have a sincere desire to help out their fellow Hoosiers and not because PatentConnect is compensating them. Attorneys registered with PatentConnect are only affiliated with the site in that they have agreed to take on pro bono clients that have also registered with the site. If you do not satisfy the requirements for receiving pro bono services (either PatentConnect’s requirements or the volunteer attorney’s requirements), the patent attorney may request payment for their services, perhaps at a discounted rate. This is up to the particular patent attorney.

Will an attorney I connect with ever charge me for services?

PatentConnect connects inventors and attorneys for a very narrow range of services. If the service your attorney provides falls within that scope and relates to the same application for which you submitted the request and the volunteer attorney agrees, your attorney will not charge you for rendering them. However, no services outside this scope are covered under the pro bono program unless you have previously discussed the issue with your attorney. If you are ever unsure whether a service is covered, make sure to discuss this with your attorney before he or she proceeds.

Can an attorney help me with services other than filing for a patent?

See question above (Re: What can I expect from my attorney?)

I have already filed for a patent but recently received a notice (i.e., an Office Action) from the USPTO, can PatentConnect match me with an attorney to assist in responding?

Yes! When registering, make sure to complete the field that asks for the due date of your next office action.

How long will it take to connect with an attorney?

The length of time it will take to connect with an attorney will vary from client to client. It can take as little as 1-2 weeks but it may take much longer, and there is no guarantee that you will be connected with an attorney. Your best course of action is to check your Status page regularly for updates. Contacting the PatentConnect Admin will not expedite your request, nor does the Admin have any additional information about your request that can’t already be found on your Status page.

I would prefer to have a local attorney, is this possible?

PatentConnect does not factor distance into the connection process. You are free to reject an attorney connection if you feel he or she is too far away. But if you reject a connection, PatentConnect will not connect you with another attorney.

I connected with an attorney that is located far away from my residence, will I be expected to travel to his/her office?

Most of the communications between a patent attorney and his or her client can be done through email or telephone. You will never be required to travel to your attorney’s office if you are unable or would prefer not to.

If I don’t qualify for pro bono services through PatentConnect’s Matching program, can I still register for an account?

Yes! In fact, we encourage you to do so. Even if you don’t qualify for pro bono services from an attorney, you may still be able to receive assistance from a legal clinic at one of Indiana’s many law schools, such as the IP Clinic at the Maurer School of Law at Indiana University (Bloomington). Additionally, as long as you complete the USPTO training program, your request may still be placed in PatentConnect’s Marketplace for assistance from a patent attorney, perhaps at a discounted rate.

If I am connected with an attorney, does that mean I will be able to file a patent for free?

Not quite. For pro bono clients, the attorney fees associated with preparing an application will be free but the administrative fees associated with actually filing the application are set by the USPTO and still apply. Furthermore, other third party fees and costs will also be your responsibility (ex. patent drawing fees, postage, etc.).

Does the PatentConnect program cover international patent applications?

Probably. Your pro bono attorney may draft a form of international patent application known as a PCT application as part of his or her services. Again, you will still be responsible for all the fees associated with filing this application. Your attorney’s pro bono services will not extend beyond filing of the application. Accordingly, you should not expect your pro bono attorney to file national-stage applications (i.e. applications in foreign countries) if you elect to file a PCT application. However, the pro bono patent attorney will ultimately determine the scope and duration of their assistance to you, which may or may not include the preparation of a PCT application.

I have previously been connected with an attorney through PatentConnect and have another invention I would like to patent. Can I contact my previous attorney directly or do I have to go through PatentConnect?

We ask that you submit another request through PatentConnect instead of contacting attorneys directly. You may indicate that you would like to work with an attorney with whom you have previously matched when submitting a new invention however (i.e., it's the last question in the form). In any case, please refrain from contacting attorneys directly. The scope of your relationship with an attorney through this program begins and ends with the issue for which you have been connected through PatentConnect. You should not expect an attorney that you have worked with previously to represent you in subsequent matters. However, you always have the right to hire any attorney that you want to work with outside of PatentConnect.

Is a suggested match by PatentConnect with a patent attorney an endorsement of the patent attorney?

No. It is ultimately up to you, the client, to determine the skills, qualifications, experience, etc. of the patent attorney. You are not required to use the suggested patent attorney and may elect to hire another patent attorney at any time. PatentConnect does not endorse any patent attorney and makes no suggestion as to the qualifications of any patent attorney.

I have a deadline approaching that may affect the patentability of my invention, can my request be expedited?

You can certainly note that you have a deadline approaching, and we encourage you to do so, but that will not affect the matching process. We strive to match all inventors as quickly as possible, so there isn’t any mechanism in place to expedite the process any further. Please note that if your deadline to file an application or office action with the USPTO is less than two months away, it is unlikely that you will be connected with an attorney in time.

What is PatentConnect? Who operates the site?

PatentConnect is a website that matches Indiana inventors needing pro bono patent services to Indiana lawyers willing to provide them. The website is operated by the Indiana University Maurer School of Law’s Center for Intellectual Property Research with support from the USPTO. However, PatentConnect is not exclusively affiliated with Indiana University or the Maurer School of Law. It is an effort intended to be inclusive of all Indiana residents regardless of school affiliation.

Why does PatentConnect offer free matching services? Is this a scam?

PatentConnect is a website that matches Indiana inventors needing pro bono patent services to Indiana lawyers willing to provide them. The website is operated by the Indiana University Maurer School of Law’s Center for Intellectual Property Research with support from the USPTO. However, PatentConnect is not exclusively affiliated with Indiana University or the Maurer School of Law, it is an effort intended to be inclusive of all Indiana residents (both inventors and attorneys) regardless of school affiliation.

Will I ever be charged for using the PatentConnect website?

No. PatentConnect will always be a free service.

How can I contact PatentConnect directly?

Please look through this Help page and the USPTO’s FAQ section for your answer before contacting PatentConnect directly. If you still have questions after reading both pages, please feel free to reach out to us through our Contact page


More Questions?

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