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Patent and Trademark Resource Center: Legal Assistance

Unauthorized Practice of Law

While Orono PTRC staff are happy to provide assistance with your search, we cannot offer legal opinion or interpretation of the law. We cannot file applications or determine if a patent or trademark will be approved by the USPTO. We are not likely to be familiar with mechanical, electrical, chemical or other technologies relating to your search. Additionally, we are not trained or licensed legal professionals. This means that we are not able to advise you regarding any legal matters, including whether or not your invention is patentable, nor can we provide legal assistance for you. If your questions require legal opinion or an interpretation of the law, we recommend contacting a patent agent or attorney. A database of registered patent attorneys is available on the USPTO Web site.

Before Seeking Legal Assistance

Many answers to your legal questions may be found directly from the USPTO Website. It is advised that you spend some time reading information from the following pages before consulting with an attorney or patent agent. Doing your homework ahead of time will not only answer some of your questions, but will also help you formulate better questions, saving you time and money. If you are truly new to the concept of "intellectual property" (patents, trademarks, copyright, and trade secrets), you should complete the USPTO's Intellectual Property Awareness Assessment. It can help you identify unprotected assets that you may not even know you have.

The Orono PTRC has printed versions of each of the guides listed above. We would be happy to mail any of them to you upon request, or you can stop in and pick them up. Supply is limited. Contact us for availability.

Resources for Legal Assistance

The Orono PTRC holds a wide collection of patent and trademark law self-help books (examples shown to the left), as well as the entire up-to-date Patent Office Rules and Practice. Staff cannot recommend works, but we can assist with the use of our catalog and other finding aids in order to help you to identify works that may help you answer questions of a legal nature.

The USPTO assists independent inventors, small businesses, minorities, university affiliated inventors, and other underserved communities through the Office of Innovation Development's Inventor's Web Site. If you plan to file a patent application without the assistance of a patent agent or attorney, you may want to know about the USPTO's Pro Se Assistance Program, providing guides and resources for some of the most common issues that pro se applicants encounter. On the other hand, if you need the assistance of a patent agent or attorney, but can not afford one, you might qualify for pro bono (done without compensation, for the public good) legal assistance by following the instructions on the Nationwide Pro Bono page.

In addition, the USPTO has developed the Patent Litigation Online Tool Kit designed to answer common questions about patent litigation, such as:

  • What are my options for responding to a law suit?
  • How can I tell whether or not I’m infringing?
  • How do I find a lawyer?
  • How can I challenge a patent or patent application?

The tool kit may be of assistance if you are ever accused of patent infringement, or if you suspect your patent is being infringed by someone else.

If you have received a cease and desist letter, or have been sued over a trademark, visit the Trademark Litigation Online Toolkit. It has answers to some common questions about trademark litigation.

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