June's featured article

Innovation Development on the Move in 2014

Sue Purvis : Office of Innovation Development

If you're a regular reader of Inventors Eye, you've probably heard of our Office of Innovation Development (OID), but what exactly does OID do?

OID was formed in 2011 within the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) with the goal of ensuring entrepreneurs, independent inventors, small businesses, and pro se applicants better understand, secure, and utilize patents. Since 1999 the USPTO had assisted these stakeholders under the old Office of Independent Inventor Programs. The creation of OID allowed the USPTO to refocus and expand outreach to additional segments of the inventor community, including university-affiliated inventors, and inventors from minority and underserved communities. Since its formation, OID has provided a national campaign of education and awareness regarding all forms of intellectual property (IP) in a variety of ways. In fulfilling that role, the office plans and participates in a number of events to support innovation. In fact, things have been pretty busy since the start of our current fiscal year back in October, with lots of events and programs. We'd like to take a moment to share some of the highlights.

Last fall, we launched a new program at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial Library in Washington, D.C. OID partnered with the USPTO's Office of Education and Outreach, Trademark Outreach, and Global Intellectual Property Academy to offer the community a chance to learn from patent, trademark, and copyright experts from the USPTO. It was a big success, and we learned a lot from it. We hope to try this program in other locations in the future, including our satellite office locations.

OID continues its popular Saturday Seminars in the Detroit Satellite Office, and just recently we wrapped up our first Saturday Seminar in New York City, as part of our Department of Commerce partnership with Cornell University. Much like the D.C. library program, Saturday Seminars are an opportunity for the community to talk with IP experts from the local community, including attorneys and individuals from the Small Business Administration or local Small Business Development Centers.

OID continues to lead the USPTO's collaboration with the Smithsonian Institution, which has led to several innovation-focused activities at various Smithsonian museums in Washington, D.C. Last November, our "Innovation Explorations in Sound" family event took place at the National Museum of the American Indian. Along with bringing an interactive exhibit on how sound works to the event, OID sponsored a meet-and-greet with Inventors Hall of Fame member James E. West, co-creator of the electret foil microphone. A speaker forum on Dec. 8 brought together innovators and intellectual property policy experts for a day of stimulating conversation on the future of innovation at the Smithsonian S. Dillon Ripley Center. Several more exciting collaborative events with the Smithsonian are planned for 2014, so be on the lookout for more information!

Other highlights from the past year include participating in the International Home and Housewares Show in Chicago, where we shared information on patents and trademarks with the thousands of attendees who have dreams of invention and entrepreneurship. We also participated in the Historically Black Colleges and Universities Innovation and Entrepreneurship Collaborative; America Makes Program Management Review; National Science Foundation SBIR/STTR Phase I and Phase II Conferences; "From Your Garage to the Assembly Line," an Inventors Conference sponsored by Senator Mike Enzi (R-Wyo.); and the Minnesota Inventors Congress Invention Expo.

Along with public engagement at many events, OID provides outreach focused on institutions of higher learning. Our experts visit classrooms, technology transfer offices, and university-affiliated businesses to provide information for innovators pursuing exciting technologies. Visits this year have included institutions in Georgia, North Carolina, Illinois, Maryland, Virginia, Oregon, Colorado, California, Texas, and the District of Columbia.

OID also partnered with the Minority Business Development Agency to create a series of free webinars on patents, trademarks, and copyrights. These webinars are designed to teach entrepreneurs and business owners what they need to know about intellectual property when creating and operating their businesses.

Last but not least, OID's year-to-date efforts culminated in the Women's Entrepreneurship Symposium, which just wrapped up in Denver at the end of May. The USPTO partnered with Senator Michael Bennet (D-Colo.), the Colorado Bar Association, the University of Denver, the Colorado Small Business Development Center, and the Denver Metro Chamber of Commerce to organize this program that spanned two days and focused on women entrepreneurs. Attendees learned about the importance of intellectual property protection for their innovations and how to leverage economic opportunities for women-owned businesses.

OID staff is always available to assist independent inventors with specific patent questions. Give us a call at 571-272-8877 or email Independentinventor@uspto.gov. For general questions about patents and the application process, you can also call the Inventors Assistance Center at 800-786-9199.

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The USPTO gives you useful information and non-legal advice in the areas of patents and trademarks. The patent and trademark statutes and regulations should be consulted before attempting to apply for a patent or register a trademark. These laws and the application process can be complicated. If you have intellectual property that could be patented or registered as a trademark, the use of an attorney or agent who is qualified to represent you in the USPTO is advised.