Outreach to Minority Serving Institutions

Broadening access and participation among underrepresented university and college populations

The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) is committed to broadening access, opportunity, and participation in innovation, invention, and entrepreneurship among faculty and students at Minority Serving Institutions (MSIs) and community colleges through interactive education and outreach programs. These programs are designed by the USPTO and delivered in collaboration with subject matter experts and in coordination with the USPTO's affinity groups. Our goal is to increase intellectual property (IP) awareness and knowledge among students and faculty from underrepresented and under-resourced groups and communities and to increase the number of individuals who are active participants in the innovation ecosystem in roles beyond consumers or observers. The USPTO also seeks to expand intellectual property (IP) experiences offered at each college and university by engaging students and faculty who may not have considered pathways involving IP.

To accomplish these goals, the USPTO has implemented programs at Howard University, the University of Houston, and the University of Puerto Rico, and collaborated with other organizations, described in further details below. We are also expanding IP education and outreach programming to additional students and faculty of Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs), Hispanic Serving Institutions (HSIs), Tribal Colleges (TCUs), Women’s Colleges, and Community Colleges (CC) by using these successful programs as models to replicate and upscale.


Howard University Seal

Howard University College of Engineering and Architecture

The USPTO works with Howard University’s College of Engineering and Architecture's Introduction to Engineering class to encourage minority faculty to promote a culture of innovation and to create intellectual property (IP) awareness by adding and integrating IP to certain courses. The USPTO's Chapter of the National Society of Black Engineers helps to develop and deliver the program, which:

  • Introduces students to IP concepts, such as patents, trademarks, copyrights, and trade secrets
  • Provides students with interactive challenges to incorporate the various aspects of IP
  • Shares information on IP careers in and out of the USPTO
  • Provides information about diverse resources provided by the USPTO 

University of Houston and Texas Southern University

In 2018, University of Houston and Texas Southern University secured funding from U.S. Department of Energy to conduct a three year, six-week summer program to improve minority engagement in innovation and entrepreneurship in the energy sector. Representatives from the universities approached the USPTO and asked to collaborate with them and provide an interactive education experience to the students for the intellectual property (IP) portion of their summer program. 

A diverse group of people standing, looking up, and holding postcards saying “ten million patents” with Hope Shimabuku, the director of the Texas regional office of the USPTO, standing in the front row and holding a large sign saying “ten million patents”

The USPTO used the interactive model of its National Summer Teacher Institute (NSTI) and materials from the Howard University program to create content that introduced the students to IP in the context of technology transfer and lab-to-market business plan development. During the summers of 2018, 2019, and 2021, the USPTO participated for several days of the summer program and provided the students with a comprehensive orientation on IP.   

University of Puerto Rico: Community-innovation ecosystem approach

The USPTO collaborates with the University of Puerto Rico (UPR) in this community-innovation ecosystem approach, which is open to all K-12 educators and university faculty across Puerto Rico. The program was developed to train K-20 educators along two different pathways. The first pathway focuses on direct professional development workshops for K-12 educators. The second pathway focuses on the USPTO's "Train the Trainer" workshops, which trains faculty across the island to serve as IP ambassadors capable of conducting IP workshops to further upskill K-12 educators in Puerto Rico.    

A woman standing in front of podium and speaking to men and women seated at desks.

These in person workshops and virtual webinars increase awareness and knowledge about the role of IP, critical thinking, and creativity play across the K-20 innovation ecosystem. The workshops also help educators prepare their students to compete in the current and future innovation economy through inclusive strategies in preK-12, higher education, and informal learning environments that nurture and support innovation and entrepreneurship skills across the island.  


American Association for the Advancement of Science's (AAAS) HBCU Making and Innovation Initiative

HBCU Making and Innovation Initiative is funded by a grant from the National Science Foundation (NSF) and was developed to allow historically black colleges and universities (HBCU) student entrepreneurs, inventors, and innovators to team together to design a hardware or software prototype that addresses one of the United Nation’s 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDG).

The USPTO has supported the Making and Innovation Showcase for a number of year and serves on the AAAS HBCU Making and Innovation Advisory Committee. The USPTO has also collaborated with AAAS and NSF to conduct roadshows at HBCUs to spread information about intellectual property and provide IP, entrepreneurship, and presentation skills workshops for university students participating in the program.

National Science Foundation’s Eddie Bernice Johnson INCLUDES National Network 

The USPTO serves as a federal partner in the National Science Foundation's Eddie Bernice Johnson INCLUDES National Network along with other federal agencies. The NSF Eddie Bernice Inclusion across the Nation of Communities of Learners of Underrepresented Discoverers in Engineering and Science (INCLUDES) National Network is a comprehensive national initiative to enhance U.S. leadership in discoveries and innovations by focusing on diversity, inclusion and broadening participation in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) at scale.

How to Collaborate with USPTO

The USPTO is the source for all intellectual property related matters. The Office of Education has worked with many learning institutions to ensure clear, accurate, and useful intellectual property resources are disseminated to further the education of students about the many benefits of creating and protecting intellectual property. There are numerous benefits to educating students about IP rights at the university level, including increased interest in STEM careers. Contact USPTO to learn about a collaboration with your institution.