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Friday Oct 02, 2015

Icons for Intellectual Property Concepts Unveiled

Guest blog by Deputy Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Deputy Director of the USPTO Russ Slifer

With startup activity in the United States surging and small inventors changing the global economic landscape, entrepreneurial spirit is thriving. Each day, more people are entering a sometimes unfamiliar world of intellectual property (IP). The USPTO is committed to explaining that world, and ensuring that current and future inventors, innovators, entrepreneurs, and business owners understand IP concepts. One way we are doing this is by creating a universal language to help describe these concepts via graphic design. By putting a visual mark on common intellectual property notions, we hope to help spread awareness about IP while engaging with the public.

Drafting icons

Enter the USPTO Iconathon, a workshop to create a set of icons that universally represent intellectual property. Partnering with the Noun Project, we called on students, civic activists, artists, and intellectual property enthusiasts to collaborate, brainstorm, and sketch designs. The result: 19 new icons that are now in the public domain, ready for use around the world.

To make the language universal, it was critical to include members of the public, not typically working in the intellectual property field, to create and select icons that would resonate with all stakeholders, including international audiences.

Sitting at round tables with sketchbooks and pencils, participants tackled concepts including infringement, invention, pro se, patent pending, STEM, trademark, and counterfeit. The workshop was an opportunity for us to consider each concept and discuss how to capture it as an image that would appeal to various audiences. This type of interaction is at the root of building a culture of open government and greater understanding of government actions.

At the conclusion of the workshop, all the sketches were displayed for workshop participants and intellectual property experts to review. After all the votes were in, the group discussed the strengths and weaknesses of each of the sketches.
Thank you to all the participants who joined us in Alexandria, Virginia on August 28. Your collective talent and experience yielded high-quality, well designed icons.


This is something that I wouldn't have considered important before, but the article gives good information about why these icons are crucial. I think the icons are very clear, effective, and artistic. They represent excellent ways to produce abstract concepts in pictorial form. It was a good idea to involve members of the public in their creation. 

Posted by Sophia on October 30, 2015 at 04:25 AM EDT #

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