High School, College, Post-College
Type of Programs
The Microsoft #MakeWhatsNext Patent Program offers female inventors patent support and mentorship so they can protect their ideas and further their innovation.
Template or Direct Join
Small Team Friendly
Minimum of 3 (1 drafting & prosecuting patent attorney, 1 paralegal for filings, and 1 docketing person)
- 1 hour for invention disclosure meeting
- 4 hours for drafting patent application
- 2 hours for Office action and beyond
MWN volunteer email alias: MWNProBono@microsoft.com
MWN inventor email alias: firstname.lastname@example.org
The Make What’s Next (MWN) Patent Program offers diverse inventors patent support and mentorship so they can protect their ideas and further their innovation. The program was established in 2016 by Microsoft to coincide with International Women’s Day and its mission is to encourage girls, young women, and other under-represented groups to pursue a career in STEM by providing pro bono patent support and mentorship for their inventions. The MWN Patent Program encourages girls and women to pursue careers in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics and empowers them to invent and patent their inventions. Program participants include solo female inventors, female inventor teams, and mixed gender inventor teams around the world.
As of August 2022, there have been 50+ inventive ideas submitted, 97 inventors, 24 applications filed, 15 patents granted, 20+ volunteers (paralegals, patent engineers, attorneys), more than 1200 volunteer pro bono hours. Please join Microsoft’s MWN program and represent diverse inventors before the US Patent & Trademark Office (“USPTO”) today.
Guide for Participating in Make What’s Next Patent Program:
Make What’s Next Patent Program (MWN) participants rely on volunteers, including attorneys, agents, and paralegals, to represent MWN patent program inventors to patent their ideas before the USPTO.
Pro bono volunteers work with MWN inventors to prepare and prosecute patent applications on their inventions at the USPTO and, where applicable, foreign patent offices.
To take on a pro bono case from MWN, you would need at least:
One patent attorney or agent registered to practice before the USPTO
Ability to manage a case docket
Ability to make filings at the USPTO
Malpractice insurance that would cover pro bono matters. Neither Microsoft nor the Make What’s Next Patent Program provides volunteers with docketing support or malpractice insurance.
If your law firm or in-house legal department is interested in representing MWN inventors, or have any questions, please reach out to MWNProBono@microsoft.com.
Case Management Timeline of Patent Submission Review, Selection and Drafting Process:
(1) MWN Identifies Opportunities: MWN will identify opportunities and vet candidates for program fit. MWN will notify the pro bono attorneys/companies with the pool of candidate cases that are available, including short information about the candidate client and a short description of the submitted idea for patenting.
Make What’s Next Program client and matters are sourced from a number of organizations, including:
Organizations that encourage students to invent (high schools, universities, nonprofits, etc.).
Organizations that have a focus on diversity in inventorship.
Winners and participants of science fair, technology competitions, and other events.
Organizations that train technology instructors/teachers.
(2) Pro Bono Attorney/Company Assignment: Pro bono attorney/company should review and select a case for which they could work on based on the description and information provided. MWN will provide the case file of the selected case to the pro bono attorney/company, including contact information of the inventors, detailed information of the patentable idea, and any attachment documents or files.
The pro bono attorney/company may then perform a conflict check, patentability analysis, and other vetting steps:
(a) Conflict check: The subject matter of the idea, the client, or other reasons may create a conflict between a pro bono attorney/company and a given client and matter. Each company may perform their own internal conflict check.
Once vetted, the volunteer should notify Microsoft that the volunteer accepts the case. If accepted by the volunteer, the volunteer is assigned that case. Once assigned, Microsoft is not involved (and does not represent) the client on the remaining process.
To the extent a client and/or matter does not pass the vetting process, the volunteer should notify Microsoft. Microsoft can reassign the candidate client and matter to another volunteer.
The pro bono attorney/company can also perform patentability analysis, including prior art searches to determine potential patentable scope and state of prior art.
The pro bono attorney will provide limited representation to the client and should set the client’s expectation of the representation.
The pro bono attorney should also execute an engagement letter with the client for the matter. Upon request, Microsoft can provide the volunteers with a sample engagement letter for use with the client. The engagement letter, for instance, may include provisions directed to the nature of the matter, identity of the attorney, limitations on scope of representation, confidentiality, who is responsible for USPTO administrative fees, the lack of guarantee of outcome, covenants not to sue, and others.
(3) Patenting: The volunteering attorney and paralegal shall work with the client on the matter through the patenting process, including:
(a) Drafting and filing patent application.
(b) Prosecution of the application, including restriction requirements, office action responses, interviews, and appeals where applicable.
(c) Based on the scope of allowed claims and the scope of the originally filed application, consider continuations and divisionals to pursue unclaimed subject matter.
(d) Representation may be ended at grant or final disposition.
(e) Other considerations:
Pro bono attorney/company may pay for the filing and prosecution fees and annuities. Pro bono attorney should discuss who will be responsible for USPTO administrative fees with the client and include fee provisions in the engagement letter.
Case deadlines and important dates may be managed using an internal patent docketing system and ensure that USPTO communications and
actions are monitored and added to the docketing system.
Pro bono attorney/company should consider a dedicated pro bono customer number and determine how they could pay fees on behalf of the client.