IAP Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

Basics

No direct financial assistance is provided. For information on any type of assistance or support related to out of pocket costs (e.g. search of the state of the art, claim drafting, filing fees, any other fess, legalization or translation of documents, etc.) please contact your national Technology Innovation Support Center (TISC) for information.

In the context of the IAP, WIPO does not provide legal advice or assistance to volunteer attorneys or applicants. WIPO is an international intergovernmental organization which promotes cooperation among its member states to protect intellectual property worldwide and is therefore not entitled to advise private parties. The role of WIPO in this case is to facilitate the matchmaking of under-resourced inventors with pro bono patent attorneys/agents.

In general, the pro bono legal services that a attorney may offer include:

  • Preparation or filing of a patent application.
  • Help with the patent application process.
  • Correspondence with the patent office.

The precise scope of services provided will be defined on a case-by-case basis, through agreement between the volunteer attorney and the applicant. Therefore, the scope of representation and the services offered may differ from one case to another.

Pro bono legal services in intellectual property law and in patent-related matters in particular, expand access to the patent system to inventors with valuable ideas, but who lack the financial means to obtain legal services that will help them to protect their inventions.

By increasing access to the patent system for financially under-resourced inventors or small businesses, pro bono legal services help level the playing field for inventors, which in turn brings a host of economic and social benefits to the local economy.

Historically, few opportunities have existed for patent attorneys to offer pro bono legal services in patent law – a field of law that often demands attorneys to be equipped with both legal and technical knowledge.

By participating in the IAP, pro bono attorneys provide a free kick-start to the use and development of the patent system in developing countries. Moreover, their work helps spur innovation at the grassroots level and also allows them to develop their professional skills in new, rewarding ways.

The provision of free legal services to inventors with limited financial means serves to further technological progress by lessening the costs involved in obtaining patent protection. It can also serve to reduce backlogs at national or regional patent offices since applications compiled with legal assistance are more likely to be in good order and therefore more straightforward to process than those compiled without an attorney.

Eligible applicants are matched with pro bono attorneys on the basis of the field of the invention and the attorney’s knowledge or expertise. In the event of any conflict of interest, the attorney may choose to withdraw and the inventor may ask to try to provide another suitable match.

At present, the pro bono legal assistance provided under the IAP is limited to patent-related matters.

Financially-challenged inventors and small business in developing countries usually file patent applications without any technical legal assistance. This means that they are generally not clients of local patent attorneys. If an investor’s promising idea proves to be a commercial success, it is likely that he/she will seek out paid legal assistance for future patent applications.

The IAP does not impose a limit on the number of inventors that may receive assistance. However, the availability of a volunteer attorney who possesses specialized knowledge of the technical field to which the applicant’s invention belongs cannot be guaranteed. Consequently, the availability of volunteer attorneys may vary.

Applying

You can apply for a patent under the IAP in the country in which you are resident (provided that country is participating in the IAP). In some jurisdictions and under certain circumstances, regional or international patent applications may also be filed under the IAP.

To check the status of your patent application, made with the help of the IAP, you should consult with the pro bono attorney assigned to you or enquire with the national or regional patent office at which the application was filed. WIPO does not keep a copy of the prosecution file or patent application.

One of the conditions to qualify for support under the IAP is that you are able to demonstrate a basic knowledge of the patent system. The online course is one of the two ways in which you can do this. The other is by presenting proof of a current patent application that has been filed at the patent office of a participant country.

The residency criterion is defined individually by each country participating in this project. In general terms, you are classed as being resident in the country in which you live permanently, or where your business is established (provided that the country in question is participating in the IAP).

The IAP does not provide malpractice insurance for pro bono attorneys. Attorneys are responsible for securing their own insurance in accordance with applicable national laws.

For countries and sponsors

Governments of developing countries that are interested in becoming members of the IAP should contact WIPO, the World Economic Forum or one of the IAP Steering Committee members with an expression of interest, including a statement of how the IAP is expected to benefit that country. The Steering Committee will review the request and make a decision based, among other things, on the current capacity of the IAP to be extended to a new country, the current state and capacity of the local patent system in the applying country, and the current state of patent filings and patent grants for local applicants.

 

Corporations who regularly engage law firms around the world to represent them in IP matters are encouraged to join the IAP as Corporate Supporter Members. Interested parties should contact WIPO, the World Economic Forum or one of the IAP Steering Committee members with an expression of interest, which will be processed by the Steering Committee. A variety of other entities may also become Supporter Members of the IAP, namely, global IP law firms with established pro bono programs and a presence in developing countries, as well as regional or international IP lawyers associations.

More questions?

If you couldn't find an answer to your question on this page or through the IAP homepage, then feel free to contact us and we'll do our best to provide you with an answer.

Disclaimer: The questions and answers provided on this page serve a purely informative purpose and are not a legal point of reference. They do not necessarily represent the official position of WIPO or its member states.