While services provided directly by our volunteers through the IAP are free of charge, no direct financial assistance is offered. The official costs associated with a patent application (e.g. those costs paid to the patent office) and any out-of-pocket costs necessary to complete your application (e.g. translation of documents) remain your responsibility.
In the context of the IAP, WIPO does not provide legal advice or assistance to volunteers or applicants. WIPO is an international intergovernmental organization that promotes cooperation among its Member States to protect intellectual property worldwide and therefore does not advise private parties. WIPO facilitates the program, supporting participating countries, providing infrastructure, and promotion.
In general, the pro bono legal services that a volunteer may offer include:
The precise scope of services provided will be defined on a case-by-case basis, through agreement between the volunteer 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.
The IAP offers patent professionals a chance to deliver tremendous impact for inventors, being the catalyst to turn their ideas into valuable assets. Volunteers join a global community of professionals committed to improving their local innovation ecosystems while enhancing their skills and networks.
The IAP supports inventors by helping them develop high quality patent applications. This increases their chances of securing a patent, and ultimately increased the total value of IP assets in the economy. It also facilitates communication with applicants, reducing time IP offices spend dealing with badly drafted patent applications.
Learn more on our page for participating countries.
Eligible applicants are matched with volunteers considering the technical field of the invention and the volunteer’s knowledge or expertise.
At present, the pro bono legal assistance provided under the IAP is limited to patent-related matters.
Under-resourced inventors and small business in the IAP participating countries usually file patent applications without any technical legal assistance. This means that they are generally not clients of local patent attorneys. If an inventor’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 who possesses specialized knowledge of the technical field to which the applicant’s invention belongs cannot be guaranteed. Consequently, the availability of volunteers may vary.
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.
Consult with your volunteer or national or regional patent office to determine the status of your application. 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 volunteers. You are responsible for securing your own insurance in accordance with applicable national laws.
Governments interested in becoming participating countries should send WIPO an official letter explaining how the IAP is expected to benefit the 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. More details are available on our participating countries page.
Corporations who regularly engage law firms around the world to represent them in IP matters are encouraged to join the IAP as sponsors. Interested parties should contact WIPO with an expression of interest. All sponsors must be approved by the IAP Steering Committee.
A variety of other entities may also become IAP sponsors, namely, global IP law firms with established pro bono programs and a presence in the IAP participating countries, as well as regional or international IP lawyers associations. Sponsors can also offer value-add services to beneficiaries.
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.