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On November 4, 2017, the MC-Hillman students travelled by bus, metro, and car to the sunny headquarters of the Federal U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) in Alexandria, VA, for an afternoon of learning about the benefits of innovation, intellectual property, and public service and how the entrepreneurial spirit is alive and well in the country and at the Patent Office.

Even before the official program began, the students were inspired and incredibly fortunate to stumble into the USPTO official welcoming ceremony for inductees into the Patent Office Hall of Fame, with a private audience with two fall of famers, Dr. Victor Lawrence and Dr. James West. Dr. Lawrence’s work paved the way for developments in broadband, DSL, HDTV technologies and wireless data transfer and his advancements in V-series modem technology and international standards enable the interoperability of computer networks across the globe. Dr. West is an American inventor with over 250 foreign and U.S. patents for his design of microphones and polymer foil electrets and has founded numerous organizations supporting minorities graduate and undergraduate students of science.  Since 2015, he has also served on the Board of Directors of a Baltimore non-profit that supports talented middle and high school students in science and math. Both of these gentlemen were generous of their valuable time in speaking with our students.

After four current employees of the USPTO shared their personal and professional stories, USPTO Attorney and Program Advisor Tanaga Boozer and Outreach Advisor and Extern Program Director Michael Razavi joined together to talk about the initiatives at the Patent Office that are most important to start-up entrepreneurs. The Hillman students learned about the process, fees, and benefits of applying for various types of patents and then were introduced to special ways  the Patent Office supports very small businesses they call “micro-entities.”

 

The highlight of the trip to the Patent Office was an exercise organized by Boozer and her colleagues. Teams of three students each chose a pair of existing patents and worked together to come up with a new concept. They then designed a logo and slogan, expanded the concept to highlight features and benefits, and finally presented their new concepts to the whole group. Not surprisingly, the PTO representatives were quite impressed and encouraged the students to follow up.

What did they come up with? Without a nondisclosure agreement, it is unlikely that you will ever know. But wait a couple of years and you could find the patented results hitting the market!

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