The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office designated the Intellectual Property & Entrepreneurship Clinic in the University of Arizona’s James E. Rogers College of Law as Arizona’s pro bono hub to serve inventors across the state in need of legal assistance.

The U.S. Patent and Trademark Office’s pro bono program is designed to help financially under-resourced independent inventors, small businesses and startup companies obtain free legal counsel from local patent attorneys in filing patent applications and protecting their innovations. The UA is one of just four law schools in the country to serve as a hub for the program.

Under the UA initiative, dubbed the Arizona Public Patent Program, Arizona residents who want to file a patent application can apply with the Intellectual Property & Entrepreneurship Clinic for assistance, and the clinic will review their file and match qualifying clients with an Arizona attorney for pro bono legal services. The clinic — which doubled its caseload between spring and fall 2016 — will also offer attorneys the services of its students to assist on those cases.

The pro bono designation will allow UA law students to build closer relationships with intellectual property attorneys in the state, while Arizona residents will be able to get free help with a complex legal process that can cost up to $20,000. In 2015, nearly 3,000 patent applications were filed in Arizona. Before the UA law school earned the pro bono designation, Arizona residents were funneled to a California pro bono program.

The UA College of Law also has been admitted to the U.S Patent and Trademarks Office’s Law School Certification Program, allowing intellectual property law students to practice before the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (under the guidance of a faculty supervisor), file patent applications and negotiate directly with patent examiners — work that otherwise could not be done until graduating from law school and passing the patent bar exam.