In the late 2016, the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) officially launched the Inventor Assistance Program (IAP) to open up the patent system to under-resourced inventors and small businesses in developing nations. The program aims to increase the use of the patent system worldwide by making it accessible to everyone no matter what their circumstances are, and was successfully piloted in Colombia, Morocco and the Philippines, with hopes for a wider global uptake in the near future.

It came about after WIPO found up to 60% of patent applications filed by locals in developing countries will be abandoned or rejected before they can be examined. A lack of knowledge of the patent system by inventors and small businesses lacking the funds to pay for the advice of a patent attorney were cited as the main reasons behind the lack of success.

The program works by placing inventors without the funds to realise the potential of their ideas in contact with local patent attorneys. The patent attorneys signing up for the scheme must agree to provide advice on a pro-bono basis, whilst providing them with the same service they would provide to paying clients.

The pro-bono attorneys benefit by further developing their skills, particularly those who are relatively inexperienced. The initiative is designed so that the attorneys will also be invested in the program because it will help their wider community become more developed and, if successful, eventually provide them with a paying client with a thriving business.

Details of the Inventor Assistance Program can be found on WIPO’s official website and in the WIPO Magazine.

Australian Applicants

The IAP is not intended for use in developed nations such as Australia, although there are still a number of self-filed patent applications in Australia each year. In some of cases often the applicant will not have a detailed knowledge of the patent system or fully understand what is required to obtain enforceable patent rights. In such cases, it is likely that the potential value of the applicant’s idea will never be realised. This is why it is very important to obtain informed advice from a patent professional as early as possible.

Self-filing a patent application without first consulting an IP professional can lead to several problems, including:

  • insufficiently describing the invention to the extent that obtaining useful patent protection will be impossible; and
  • wasting money on filing a patent application for an unpatentable idea, for example, where a design application may be more appropriate but no longer possible due to the disclosures of a previously filed patent application.