Director's Forum: A Blog from USPTO's Leadership
Director's Forum: A Blog from USPTO's Leadership
Monday Mar 21, 2016

From NASA to South by Southwest

Blog by Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Director of the USPTO Michelle K. Lee

Last week, I traveled to Texas to promote the USPTO’s resources for innovators, entrepreneurs, and creators, visiting the University of Houston, NASA Johnson Space Center, and South by Southwest® (SXSW) Interactive Festival. See photos from my visit to Texas. Inventors, innovators, and entrepreneurs form the backbone of our nation’s economy, and now more than ever, intellectual property (IP) plays a leading role in the continued success of America’s startup companies.

On Friday March 11, I delivered a fireside chat at the University of Houston before an audience of Houston-area university tech transfer officials, IP practitioners, and other representatives from the local innovation community. I then headed to NASA’s Johnson Space Center, where I discussed tech transfer and saw patented space technologies first-hand. I visited Mission Control and the robotics and virtual reality labs for a demonstration of the Robonaut 2 (R2) humanoid robot, which contains NASA patented technologies with transfer potential across multiple industries -- including logistics and distribution, medical and industrial robotics, as well as hazardous, toxic, or remote environments. I also had the chance to meet women leaders from across NASA

I was thrilled to be back at South by Southwest® Interactive on March 12, a year after being sworn in on stage. I led a featured session entitled, “New Face, New Pace: Innovation Beyond 2016,” where I spoke with an impressive group of CEOs on how IP has helped grow their businesses and some of the many resources the USPTO offers in support of innovators and entrepreneurs. Read my remarks and learn more about the panel.

While in Austin, I also discussed the importance of copyright in encouraging creative expression by incentivizing people to produce and share the works that contribute to America’s leading role as a cultural and economic powerhouse. I met with startups and community leaders and shared how the USPTO can help startups fit IP into their business strategy.

I was not the only representative of the USPTO at SXSW. Director of the Texas Regional Office, Hope Shimabuku, visited the Texas State University Innovation Lab, previewing game-changing technology created by student inventors, and also served as a panelist at the University of Texas at Austin session on “Move Your IP: Concept to Commercialization.” USPTO colleagues from the Office of Education and Outreach also participated in SXSW.edu Playground, where they shared learning modules with teachers to incorporate IP into their classrooms, including an exercise where expired patents were used as inspiration for new inventions. Finally, the USPTO Office of Innovation and Development provided information on USPTO resources for under resourced innovators such as the Patent Pro Bono program and discounted fees for micro entities to the many innovators and entrepreneurs at SXSW.

In short, the USPTO shared with the SXSW community the wide range of resources for entrepreneurs and startups, from tools to help them navigate the international IP landscape, to specialized events at our regional offices.

At SXSW, President Obama spoke about the critical need to develop the tech skills of our workforce for country’s economic future. At the USPTO, we support this mission, and believe that by providing more paths for all Americans to pursue technology and innovation, and by providing resources for startups and entrepreneurs, our nation will become even more competitive in the years ahead.

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