The biggest challenge facing innovators and inventors today isn’t inventing the next big idea – it’s protecting it. The Patent Pro Bono Program is managed by the United States Patent & Trademark Office (USPTO to match pro-bono patent attorneys and agents with financially under-resourced inventors and small businesses to help them secure patent protection.
Patent Pro Bono Florida & Puerto Rico is part of the nationwide network of regional programs to serve inventors. It’s a collaboration with the Arts & Business Council of Miami and Dade Legal Aid.
“For over five years we have served creatives and inventors throughout Florida with legal clinics and pro bono matches. In 2021 we started serving Puerto Rico. Our Idea to Reality symposiums elevate and celebrate the entrepreneurial ecosystem and engage some of the region’s preeminent legal minds. Our featured thought-leaders provide inventors with tips and tools they need for success,” said Laura Bruney, President & CEO of the Council.
Jessica Napoles Zuvic, Pro Bono Coordinator for Dade Legal Aid, brings her matching magic to the program. “We have the distinct honor and privilege to work with exemplary attorneys and patent agents throughout the United States. They dedicate their expertise, knowledge, and a few hours of pro bono work to underserved inventors that range from innovative entrepreneurs to business students to retired veterans. It is gratifying for the attorneys and all of us in the program when our inventors achieve their dreams.”
Two of the legal experts that participate in the Patent Pro Bono Program discuss the importance of sharing their skills, the many rewards it offers and memorable matches they’ve made through the program.
Greg Popowitz, Esq., with Assouline & Berlowe, P.A, is a native South Floridian who started his career path as a product engineer for the auto industry in Michigan. He returned to South Florida, received his law degree and is a Board-Certified Intellectual Property Attorney and Registered Patent Attorney.
“Over the years, I have focused my work on helping entrepreneurs, inventors and companies protect their creations through the various forms of Intellectual Property that includes patents, trademarks, copyrights, and trade secrets,” said Popowitz. “After almost 13 years of practice, I am proud to have earned the distinction by the Florida Bar to be Board Certified in Intellectual Property Law.”
Popowitz has been involved in Patent Pro Bono Florida/PR for five years. During that time, he’s enjoyed experiencing the eagerness of inventors he works with and the opportunity to help them navigate the patent process.
“It is a team effort where I learn how the invention works to properly apply for the patent rights, and the inventor learns about the patent process,” he said. “When inventors know why certain information is needed or why a prior invention may be a roadblock, it helps them contribute to the process as part of the team with the goal of securing a patent.”
Popowitch said the most frustrating part of the process is when inventors apply too late or miss key deadlines. He works to ensure his clients understand the key parts of the complicated patent application procedure, so they make informed decisions about critical patent deadlines and timelines.
“My goal is to always educate creatives and inventors on how to protect their Intellectual Property rights. Whether that is now, or in the future as they continue to plan, invent, and develop branding,” he said. “It is very gratifying, when one of the inventors I help, secures their patent rights and turns an idea into an invention or product to build a business”.
Frank Pham with Pham Law PLLC became involved with patent law in 2015. His focus is intellectual property. He helps clients draft and complete applications to protect their work and also advises on invalidated patents and patent infringement which is mostly litigation related.
Pham accepted some pro bono patent cases and quickly realized that some of the entrepreneurs he was working with had great ideas but no clue how to protect their inspiration. 99% of the inventors we assist are startups or microentrepreneurs with limited knowledge about intellectual property.
“It’s rewarding to help innovators protect their idea or invention by securing a patent. I value the opportunity to educate and teach them the value of their concept and help them understand intellectual property law,” said Pham.
Pham recalls helping a client whose invention was a device that combined jewelry with technology capabilities. We helped him patent the product and ultimately land a contract with a jewelry designer. Working with an inventor to prosecute a patent and then see them successfully launch the product is the win-win scenario. It’s an economic impact for the inventor and for the business community.
Both Pham and Popowitz agree that their work is invaluable to inventors. The thing they love most about their volunteer matches is the opportunity to share their legal skills with smart people that have great ideas but don’t have the resources to move them forward. The patent protects the invention from being copied and provides the licensing and selling the rights to the inventor to monetize the product.
Popowitz encourages other patent attorneys and agents to do whatever they can to assist the Patent Pro Bono program so all inventors have a chance to bring their inventions to completion. We all benefit when innovative new products come to the market.
Registered patent attorneys and agents interested in sharing their time and skills, can learn more and apply at www.artsbizmiami.org/patentfl
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