Program Process

The following are the steps for potential participants of the Patent Pro Bono Program

  1. Pay the Administrative Fee at  It is $50 for a solo inventor, $100 for nonprofits, and $150 for small businesses. Be sure to take note of your reference number from your emailed receipt. Please review the fee disclaimer on the payment page.
  2. Fill out our online application here
  3. Once you complete steps 1 and 2, you will be placed on our waitlist for the intake screening.
  4. Those seeking pro bono patent assistance must clear an intake screening:
    1. Gateway Venture Mentoring Service will ensure the individual qualifies based on the eligibility requirements. Qualifying clients either go to Inventr or the WashU EIP clinic depending on the time of year. 
    2. Inventr helps conduct prior art searches and produces a patentability score. These scores are sent directly to our network of attorneys to help get you placed.
    3. Washington University’s Entrepreneurship and Intellectual Property Clinic would meet with clients to review an invention disclosure for their proposed invention.  They also would review inventorship and ownership issues to ensure the client is entitled to receive a patent.  They also would investigate potential loss of rights issues concerning public use, description in a printed publication, and actual or attempted commercialization.  Once they have confirmed a viable potential patent they will conduct a patent search for the closest relevant prior art and draft an opinion on the scope of patent protection that may be available for the proposed invention.  A favorable review would be required before allowing a client to access the pro bono legal services of a pro bono patent program to draft and file a patent application.
  5. Placement with a pro bono attorney (not guaranteed)
    1. Entrepreneurs that pass the eligibility and intake screening would then be referred to a pro bono attorney or a list of attorneys with the relevant interest and expertise. GatewayVMS would not accept this entrepreneur as a client, they would merely function as a referral source/matchmaker.
    2. Because of the high number of applications we receive, the pro bono nature of the program, and the number of pro bono cases each firm is able to take, we cannot guarantee that each inventor will be placed with an attorney.
    3. The law firm or in-house counsel department would then assist clients according to their respective internal pro bono representation policies. We generally anticipate that the firms and in-house counsel departments will not enter powers of attorney on behalf of clients and that the clients themselves would be responsible for completing the paperwork and paying the filing fees*. To that end, the referring agency would ideally also publish a short “instruction manual” on how to use the USPTO electronic filing system (PAIR) to help indigent inventors file their applications. The non-profit placement agency will provide a “model” engagement letter for pro bono clients to clearly set forth the limited scope of the engagement and protect the firms and in-house counsel departments.

*Please refer to the filing fee schedule here 

Process timeline:

  • Making it through the intake screening (for those who qualify) is estimated to take 2-6 months depending on program volume and workload. Please reach out to Hayley Johnston for the current timeline.


Please email Hayley Johnston at if you have questions or concerns.