Skip to main content

Saint Louis University Header Logo Center

Menu Search & Directory

Pro Bono Patent Program

Saint Louis University has an agreement with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to help financially under-resourced inventors apply for patents by offering free patent attorney and/or patent agent time and entrepreneurial support, including commercialization guidance. SLU’s program serves solo inventors, nonprofit organizations and small businesses based in Missouri, Arkansas, Kansas, Nebraska or Oklahoma.

Eligibility Criteria

Solo Inventors

  • Total household income must be less than three times the federal poverty level.
  • Must not be obligated to assign rights to the invention

Non-Profits With 501(c)(3) Status From the IRS

  • Must have four or fewer inventors who are obligated to assign rights to the nonprofit
  • Budget less than $1 million per year
  • Not open to research institutions or institutions of higher learning
  • Not obligated to assign rights to another entity

Small Businesses

  • Must have four or fewer inventors who are obligated to assign rights to the business
  • All inventors’ household incomes must be less than three times federal poverty level
  • Total gross income of  less than $150,000 in preceding calendar year, and expected to remain less than $150,000 in current calendar year
  • Not obligated to assign rights to another entity

All Applicants

  • Must not have filed four or more patent applications with the United States Patent and Trademark Office.
  • Must demonstrate patent system knowledge by either having a provisional application already on file with the Patent and Trademark Office or completing an online course (Spanish version) and submitting a certificate of training.
  • Be prepared, courteous, and respectful. Failing to do so will result in expulsion from the program and denial of future services.
Fee And Placement Disclaimers

Inventors remain responsible for:

  • All fees owed to the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (which may be reduced up to 75% for “micro-entities” qualifying under this program).
  • An administrative fee for attorney placement. We cannot guarantee each inventor will be placed with an attorney because firms take a limited number of pro bono cases. Additionally, placement with a volunteer patent agent/attorney remains within the sole discretion of the program administrator.
  • A non-refundable intake application fee of $50 for a solo inventor, $100 for a nonprofit organization or $150 for a small business. This defrays SLU's administrative costs, but does not go to the attorney, patent agent or Patent and Trademark Office. This is not a guarantee of placement with an attorney, nor is it a guarantee of receiving a patent.

Our process can take two-to-six months depending on volume. Please use the contact information below to ask about the current timeline.

  1. Pay the administrative fee ($50 for a solo inventor, $100 for nonprofits and $150 for small businesses) by credit card, or by check payable to Saint Louis University and mailed to the address below. You will receive a receipt with a reference number that must then be entered into the application form in Step Two.
  2. Fill out our online application.
  3. Case review. After SLU confirms your eligibility, Inventr will review your idea and produce a patentability score.
  4. Placement with a pro bono patent attorney (not guaranteed).  Pro bono representation policies vary, but 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 filing fees.

For more information, please contact:

Patent Assistance
DuBourg Hall, Room 444
1 N. Grand Blvd.
St. Louis, MO 63103