May 4, 2022 - MoFo Pro Bono

Patenting with a Purpose: Participant Assistive Products

National Small Business Week celebrates the many entrepreneurs and small businesses that have exuded resilience and strength, especially over the last two years, and who continue to do their part to power our economy with innovative solutions.

Participant Assistive Products (“Participant”) is no exception. Registered as a Benefit Corporation, Participant designs and constructs affordable assistive products for kids using advances in technology—starting with wheelchairs and strollers—while keeping its commitments to social impact.

According to the World Health Organization, an estimated 70 million people need a wheelchair and don’t have one. This translates to eight million children who lack the basic resources needed to fully participate in school, play, and social activities. Participant’s mission is to overcome that barrier to participation with its products so that no one is left behind.

For nearly three years, MoFo has been working with Participant to advance and protect its technology by preparing and prosecuting both utility and design patent applications primarily for its first product, the Cub wheelchair. The Cub is designed to be affordable and collapsible, and to improve user accessibility as compared to a conventional wheelchair. Among its many features, the Cub is widely adjustable to suit users’ various needs.

MoFo’s patent team has also counseled Participant on various intellectual property issues raised throughout the patenting process. Working with a small business such as Participant presents many opportunities to the team that do not necessarily arise with larger companies, especially since many small businesses have limited background knowledge of the patenting process.

Washington, D.C. patent associate Meredith Stradley explains what’s special about working with a small business: “We often get to work directly with the leaders of these small businesses and counsel them through the patenting process to develop their patent portfolio from the ground up. Not only do we get to watch the evolution of the particular products directly involved in our work, but we also get to witness the transformation of the small business as it develops, tests, and successfully markets its products. For example, when I first started working with Participant, its wheelchair product was merely conceptual. Today, Participant has built a successful wheelchair that is improving children’s lives, and has several additional products in the works. As a small business, Participant has steadily grown and developed a larger presence in the mobility device space within just the last few years.”

As part of its commitment to social impact, Participant has created an Impact Dashboard, displayed on its website, to help keep itself on track by beginning to collect the following data:

  • Participation rate increase – after users receive products
  • Participants – number of people serviced
  • Devices – number of devices developed
  • Acceptance rate – percentage of users still using product after six months
  • Countries – number of countries where products are provided
  • Satisfaction – score of user’s satisfaction with the products

In addition to this dashboard, Participant meets other social impact commitments such as evaluations that ensure its products pass international quality standards, evaluation of the board and management using environmental and social metrics, product lifecycle impact assessments, and 5% donation of profits to nonprofit partners.

“As an infant B-Corp with good intentions, no patent portfolio, and a long medical device R&D roadmap, we were fortunate to find Morrison Foerster. Now we have a foundational patent portfolio, award-winning products, energetic investors, and shipments of wheelchairs on the way to children in Ukraine; we couldn’t be happier. MoFo’s timely advice, precise writing, and masterful handling of our patent affairs have been a godsend. MoFo has been an integral part of our success,” said Participant Assistive Product’s co-founder and CEO, Keoke King.

To learn more about Participant Assistive Products, visit https://www.participant.life/.

To learn more about MoFo’s pro bono program, visit https://media2.mofo.com/documents/211026-pro-bono-matters.pdf.