USPTO and Smithsonian programs

The Smithsonian Institution (Smithsonian) is the world’s largest museum complex, with 21 museums and the National Zoo. It serves millions of people annually by preserving heritage, discovering new knowledge, and sharing resources with the world.

The mission of the Smithsonian is to increase and diffuse knowledge. The Smithsonian and the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) collaborate and share their mission to inspire the next generation of inventors and creators. The Smithsonian and the USPTO together are able to celebrate and promote innovation to a wide and diverse audience. With their combined resources, the Smithsonian and the USPTO grant access to the world of invention, entrepreneurship, and intellectual protection to a vast array of people, while providing resources that encourage people to become inventors and innovators.

The two institutions have collaborated for many years, and in 2014 formally became partners. The partnership has several educational programs that broaden the reach of the USPTO, while enriching the content of the Smithsonian. In various programs, visitors learn more about the role of inventors and inventions in American history, while gaining insight on how they too could utilize the protections of intellectual property for their own innovative ideas and inventions.

Educational programming resulting from the collaboration

Innovation festivals 

Innovation festivals and trademark expositions offer adults and children a chance to interact with new technologies, in the hope of inspiring future generations of inventors and entrepreneurs. These events are designed for the whole family to celebrate the accomplishments of American inventors and the spirit of innovation. Exhibits, activities, talks, and performances celebrate ingenuity, while giving visitors the opportunity to meet inventors, patent examiners, and trademark experts. Visitors can learn from experts how an idea is molded into a working product, and then try the activities that promote innovation.


Exhibits include showcases of objects that visitors can explore on their own to gain an understanding of invention and its role in history. For instance, the Inventing in America exhibition at the National Museum of American History contains over 70 objects that represent how inventions influenced the past and how they play a key role in the world we live today.   

Panel discussions and speaker sessions 

Panel discussions and speaker sessions provide opportunities to speak and listen to living legends and experts of innovation and invention. Panel discussions have ranged from innovations in aerospace technology to conversations about the role patents played in the history of the American economy. With subject matter experts from various viewpoints and backgrounds, along with staff participants from the USPTO and the Smithsonian, panel discussions and speakers give audiences the ability to immerse themselves deeply into various studies of subjects and learn firsthand from innovators and inventors.

Family days 

Family days allow visitors of all ages to explore and discover innovation and invention together. Each family day has a theme and is comprised of hands-on activities, expert talks, and demonstrations, as well as opportunities for the public to meet, learn, and exchange ideas with inventors and innovators while exploring their own creative abilities. Past family days have explored military invention at the National Museum of American History and innovations specific to containers at the Smithsonian American Art Museum.

Hands-on learning activities 

Hands-on learning activities are designed for kids to celebrate inventors, inventions, and intellectual property in a creative and fun way. Young visitors get to immerse themselves in innovative experiences, like discovering information about patents and trademarks at the USPTO funded discovery stations at the National Air and Space Museum, learning about a particular scientist or inventor with a USPTO educator during ¡Descubra! with the National Museum of the American Latino, or trying their hand at designing an invention at the Lemelson Center for the Study of Invention and Innovation.

Web posts 

Web posts about inventions, inventors, patents, and trademarks are available to visitors from any geographic region, at any time. Virtual visitors can access an article about a patented invention at the site or learn more about the history of a specific innovation-related subject at a companion website to an exhibit.

Displays and traveling poster shows 

Displays and traveling poster shows reflect the idea that everyone is inventive. The Lemelson Center for the Study of Invention and Innovation, the Smithsonian Institution Traveling Exhibition Service, and the USPTO worked together to create a display and bi-lingual poster show called Picturing Women Inventors. It spotlights female inventors of various ages and from different fields, and has been designed to help educators reinforce the idea that women of all kinds have been successful in the field of invention.

A collaboration between the USPTO and the Smithsonian Institution, the Innovation Festival engages the public, scholars, thought leaders, inventors, and innovators in a dialogue about the critical role invention and innovation play in our society. The footage of the inventions, inventors, and exhibits is from the 2014 Innovation Festival.