The patent office realizes that many inventors and small businesses cannot afford to hire a patent attorney or agent to represent them and have provides several programs and resources for these "pro se" inventors.  The term "pro se" means that you are representing yourself before the patent office instead of having an attorney or agent help you.   Here is a list of some free patent help resources that we have found (we will keep updating this as we find more sources).

 

Source 1 - The US Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) Pro Se Inventor Help Center

The USPTO website is huge and filled with too much information.  This part of their website should be your first introduction to the patent office:

http://www.uspto.gov/patents-getting-started/using-legal-services/pro-se-assistance-program

Contact the Pro Se Assistance Program

For general inquiries, questions about your application, or other pro se matters, the Pro Se Assistance Program can be contacted in a variety of ways:

Email: IndependentInventor@uspto.gov (link sends e-mail)

phone number: 1-866-767-3848

(Hint:  If you don't mind traveling you can make an in-person meeting with the Pro Se counselors at the patent office located outside of Washington DC)

Source 2 - Law Schools

Many law schools around the country offer limited free help to inventors.   See if there is one near you here:   http://www.uspto.gov/learning-and-resources/ip-policy/public-information-about-practitioners/law-school-clinic-1

Source 3 - State Bar Pro Bono

Some states require that attorney's in their state do pro bono (or free) work for certain types of individuals (usually low income people).  The rules and requirements vary from state to state so you should call or email your state bar to see what may be available.  The USPTO has a good resource link you can use to find your state bar here:  http://www.uspto.gov/patents-getting-started/using-legal-services/pro-bono/patent-pro-bono-program

Source 4 - Online forums and websites

There are a few legit places (and lots of not legit places) where you can ask general patent questions and hopefully get some good answers and feedback.
(1)  We allow general patent questions on our forum here and try to respond with 24 hours:   http://patentfile.org/forum/
(2) Here is another form that many patent attorneys use:   http://www.intelproplaw.com/ip_forum/
(3) I have also seen good attorneys provide answers for free at places like Quora:   http://www.quora.com/
Know of any other free programs?  Please contact us to that we can update this page.
Free Patent Help For Inventors (updated list) was last modified: June 4th, 2015 by Brad Fach
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Free USPTO Provisional Patent Template

My personal provisional patent template used to file over 200 patent applications with the USPTO