April's featured article
USPTO and NIST Launch Online Intellectual Property Awareness Assessment Tool
Intellectual property (IP) is the creation of the human mind. It can include unique technological innovations, works of art, brand and concept names, symbols, logos, design and other ideas made real and tangible by creative individuals. Yet many businesses and individuals may not realize that they regularly create and use valuable IP assets in their workplace-assets which they need to protect and keep from being exploited or appropriated by competitors. To better serve the independent inventor and small business communities, the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) and the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) have released a free online tool that will allow creators of intellectual property to recognize when they have an asset that can give them a competitive edge in the marketplace and when they should seek IP protection.
The IP Awareness Assessment Tool, developed in collaboration with the NIST Manufacturing Extension Partnership, is free for all to use, but is particularly intended for innovative people who might not have the legal and financial resources of large companies and firms and may not be aware of what IP assets they need to protect. According to Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Director of the USPTO David Kappos, "The IP Awareness Assessment Tool will help entrepreneurs turn their ideas into reality and bring them to market faster, thereby creating jobs more quickly, too." Supporting independent inventors is one of the key objectives of the America Invents Act (AIA), which recognizes the spirit of innovation as the force behind American economic success. "This administration is committed to supporting innovative business tools, which help drive U.S. technological leadership worldwide and support a 21st century economy that is built to last," said Kappos.
The IP Awareness Assessment Tool helps users increase their awareness of IP issues relevant to their creative projects and business goals. Users first answer a comprehensive list of questions regarding IP, after which the tool prepares a set of training resources tailored specifically to the needs of the user as identified in the assessment. The question component is designed to be efficient, allowing users to skip over areas they are already aware of, or even forgo the full questionnaire and opt for a pre-assessment to determine their potential IP protection needs.
"Understanding and protecting IP is an important part of the process of bringing innovations to the marketplace," said Under Secretary of Commerce for Standards and Technology and NIST Director Patrick Gallagher. U.S. patent laws provide these exclusive rights for up to twenty years. Protecting IP with a patent, copyright or trademark allows holders to expand their business by permitting others to sell their products or services in exchange for a fee.
The USPTO and NIST developed the IP Awareness Assessment Tool as a way to educate innovators about these rights and encourage growth in the marketplace.