Providing advice and legal support in intellectual property cases for those who cannot afford to pay
Who we are
The intellectual property pro bono initiative - IP Pro Bono - provides intellectual property advice and legal support for claimants and defendants in intellectual property disputes.
IP Pro Bono is the collaboration of a number of leading IP organisations, including: the Chartered Institute of Patent Attorneys (CIPA) - which manages the scheme, the Chartered Institute of Trade Mark Attorneys (CITMA), the Intellectual Property Lawyers’ Association (IPLA), the IP Bar and the Law Society.
IP Pro Bono aims to respond to the challenge set out by His Honour Judge Richard Hacon, that IP legal services providers should come together to provide intellectual property advice and legal support for individuals and small businesses who find themselves involved in intellectual property disputes, who could not otherwise afford to meet the costs of professional representation.
The intellectual property professionals providing the service are all qualified and regulated under the Legal Services Act 2007.
You will first be allocated a case officer who will decide what type of help you require and assist you in finding a representative who is best suited to your needs.
Who we can help
This service has been designed to help small businesses and individuals who are involved in a dispute about an intellectual property right such as a patent, trade mark, protected design or copyright. We can help before the dispute becomes a court case. We can assist with settlement and mediation. If official proceedings have started in any of the UK Intellectual Property Office (IPO), oppositions before UK Trade Mark Registry or Appointed Person or proceedings in the Intellectual Property Enterprise Court (IPEC) or IP matters in the High Court, then we may be able to help.
The service is available to those who cannot reasonably afford to pay for professional for advice. However, if you are not totally without financial resources but are unable to find affordable services, you may also want to access the service to be signposted to more affordable resources suitable to your needs or perhaps to gain advice on alternative strategies. Your case officer may also at some stage suggest that you transition to become a paying client.
We understand that some intellectual property owners are happy to represent themselves but may wish to seek some advice on a specific issue.
We can help those who want to make a complaint (claimant) as well as those who have received a complaint against them (defendant). Intellectual property issues can be complex and people can infringe others’ IP rights without intending to do so. So even if you chose the wrong brand or inadvertently infringe a patent, this service could still help you. When you are in that situation, it is important to get good advice as soon as you can. Some situations may not be clear: and some may require nuanced solutions. This means that the courts are not the best place to resolve a dispute. Reaching a friendly settlement is nearly always better, for both sides. Therefore, the service may refer you to what is called mediation. This is a process where an independent mediator will help the parties reach a compromise that can be reflected in an agreement. This mediator may be provided by the IPO mediation service.
What we cannot do
This service is designed to help those who are in dispute about IP rights. This scheme is not for those seeking advice about obtaining IP rights. Both CIPA and CITMA run IP clinics for those seeking that type of advice, or for those trying to license, buy or sell IP rights.
The service cannot pay any court fees or other expenses on your behalf. For example, if you need an expert, they may charge fees. The service does not provide experts. In litigation, the court or tribunal will usually order the losing party to pay at least some of the winning party’s legal costs and expenses. If such an order is made against you, the service cannot help you with your obligation to pay those costs.