Science and Mechatronics Aided Research for Teachers with an Entrepreneurship Experience (SMARTER)

2013: United States Patent and Trademark Office Workshop

At today’s workshop, conducted by a team from United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), we learned about the many facets of intellectual property, most notably that intellectual property (IP) is everywhere around us. IP refers to "creations of the mind" which cover inventions, literary and artistic works, and symbols, names, and images used in commerce. US Intellectual property rights are derived from the US constitution and include patents, copyrights, and trademarks. One of the major goals of the USPTO is increasing the number of students studying STEM and becoming science innovators which will help to keep the United States competitive in today’s global economy. This will require innovation in the science classroom both in terms of how we teach and in developing students who are divergent thinkers (coming up with multiple solutions to a problem).

To that end, the USPTO has a plethora of resources for educators including links to useful websites, lesson plans, and sample worksheets. In addition to the presentation from the USPTO team, our group broke into teams to design an innovation to an existing product (USB, backpack, pen, or ruler) for which we had to complete patent and trademark searches to ensure that our products were in fact unique and potentially patentable. The products developed included a backpack with an integrated mobile device charger, a ruler with a built-in camera to take images and measure images on a micro-scale, a USB data storage device integrated into women’s accessories (ring, belt, or necklace), and a retractable, color-coded multi-USB with a stylus for touch pad use. After each group’s presentation, USPTO representatives provided a critique a-la the Shark Tank reality television show. At the end, we were all proclaimed winners—a perfect ending to a full and fun day.