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Filing a Patent? The USPTO Offers Assistance

As we've said here before, patents can be vital to your small business. Beyond protecting your inventions and ideas, patents can add value to your business for investors or a possible future sale. And yet many entrepreneurs and small business owners fail to file for patents for fear that the process is too complex.

But the United States Patent and Trademark Office is aiming to change that perception and the reality of filing for patent protection. Here's how:

Pro Se

The USPTO began a Pro Se Assistance Program in 2014, aimed at helping patent filings for those going through the process without a lawyer. (Pro se in Latin means "for oneself" or "on one's own behalf," and legally refers to persons without legal representation or representing themselves.) The Pro Se Program is aimed at providing practical information and resources to pro se patent applicants, from educational resources on patents and electronic filing to walk-in assistance at the USPTO's offices in Virginia.

According to Kathy Matecki, Director of USPTO's Technical Center 3600, the program also offers increased examiner-applicant interaction:

"... [T]he USPTO's Pro Se Art Unit is a group of experienced patent examiners from all engineering disciplines. The examiners in the art unit communicate frequently with their inventors, get to know them, and are dedicated to simplifying the patenting process and providing the best possible experience for each one, even when the inventor is unsuccessful in obtaining a patent. The program has helped identify the most common problems encountered by these applicants, so that the USPTO can simplify the process if possible, or establish best practices to assist pro se applicants."

Pro Legal Help

While the Patent Office's Pro Se program is a positive step for simplifying the patent process for inventors, few things can replace the value of an experienced attorney. If you're considering filing for patents for your small business, check out the Pro Se program's resources. And then maybe contact a patent attorney for additional information and filing guidance.

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