The Patent and Trademark Resource Center (PTRC) at Wichita State University (WSU) has experienced success with greatly expanded outreach and networking opportunities over the last two years. Nan Myers and I, Sara Butts, are the primary contacts at the PTRC located in Ablah Library, which has been a PTRC since 1991, originally a Patent and Trademark Depository Library (PTDL). Myers and I work as a team, each of us providing consultations, workshops and instruction, and outreach to promote the visibility of our PTRC. Our PTRC does not have a designated location in the library, but we have a table with U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) brochures beside the meeting room we use for consultations on the first floor.
Myers and I, along with our colleagues Meghann Kuhlmann, business liaison librarian, and Aaron Bowen, engineering and health sciences liaison librarian, have been giving workshops in an Entrepreneurship Research Series since Fall 2016 and are now in our fourth semester. In the past three semesters (Fall 2016-Fall 2017), we have given 26 workshops with a total of 151 attendees, 52% of which were patrons from the community, 38% of which were students at WSU, and 10% of which were faculty or staff at WSU. Workshop topics generally include intellectual property basics, patent and trademark searching, copyright concepts, finding facts to support a business plan (market research), graphic design tools, and occasional guest speakers. This series is designed for inventors and entrepreneurs on our campus and the Wichita community, which is home to a growing start-up culture.
In addition to providing instruction through our workshop series, we also give workshops at WSU’s GoCreate makerspace and the Kansas Small Business Development Center (KSBDC). I have also given patent searching instruction to six sections of First Year Seminar (FYS) in Technology and Innovation since last seminar. Ten sections (approximately 250 students) have received patent searching instruction, a complement to Bowen’s library instruction, since the FYS Program began in Fall 2016.
The Rocky Mountain Regional Office (RMRO) in Denver continues to help our PTRC significantly with outreach. For the last two summers, patent examiners have reserved tables at the Mini Maker Faire at the Exploration Place in Wichita where we have joined them to share information about invention through activities such as making a model lung or kazoo and testing acidity of everyday liquids using pH strips. Last July, Mark Radtke, Assistant Regional Director, Rebecca Fritchman, Patent Examiner and Outreach Advisor, and I traveled to several locations in Kansas in the two days leading up to the Mini Maker Faire. We presented to 24 faculty at Pittsburg State University; to 19 makers at the FabLab makerspace in Independence; and to 22 business owners and entrepreneurs at the Topeka Small Business Development Center. We created kazoos and used pH strips with 24 kids ages 3-14 and shared USPTO resources with 14 adults at the Topeka & Shawnee County Public Library. To conclude our trip, we met one-on-one with eight individuals at the 712 Innovations makerspace in Topeka.
Last May, we offered an All Day Patent Seminar. Shelley Self, Supervisory Patent Examiner, came to us from the RMRO and gave a presentation to 19 attendees about types of patents, the American Inventors Protection Act, and a day in the life of a patent examiner. She also joined us, along with area resource partners, for a round table discussion. She later met with Gael Tisack, Patent Attorney at WSU, and students on campus who have expressed an interest in patent law or examination. John Kirkpatrick from the USPTO’s Patent Pro Bono Program also gave a presentation on the pro bono program and I gave patent searching instruction. In preparation for the event, I put together a Kansas Inventors Display in the library’s large display case to showcase books in our library for inventors who are looking to get a patent, license their invention, or learn about inventors and invention.
The RMRO has also hosted and coordinated virtual Trademark Tuesday and Intellectual Property Basics presentations. We market these events as we do our other workshops, set up the technology needed, print handouts, and send attendees’ questions to the presenter via chat.
In Fall 2015, Myers and I joined WSU’s technology transfer office, WSU Ventures, in an Economic Development Administration (EDA) grant by providing an educational component. As of this Spring, the grant is coming to a close, but we continue to participate in Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) Workshops; attend the annual Shocker New Venture Competition trade show and final presentations; and send referrals when appropriate for technology transfer or start-up courses. WSU Ventures’ staff refer patrons to us who need basic knowledge of intellectual property or patent and trademark searching instruction. They have given presentations as guests in our Entrepreneurship Research Series and have allowed us access to the proprietary patent search software AcclaimIP.
We have been invited to provide input for a new patent wall that will be featured in the new Experiential Engineering Building (EEB) on campus that will feature WSU-owned patents, alumni inventors of WSU that have obtained patents, and design elements that will appeal to innovators that visit the building for a tour, engineering class, technology transfer meeting, or to work in the GoCreate makerspace. We are part of a Patent Wall Team that also includes people from WSU Ventures and the National Institute for Aviation Research on campus.
Our library has also been very active in outreach in the last year. Last summer, we hosted a group of 30 kids from the Fairmont Community (local to WSU) who were interested in learning about inventors and invention. I led 25 of the 30 kids in a model lung activity, with a short lesson about invention and the inventor of the medical respirator, Forrest Bird. Five of the kids were a bit too young and learned about shapes with my colleague Angela Paul, who is the librarian for K-12 outreach. We also set up a row of interactive information tables at a technology fair at the new EEB building where we asked participants to name that invention, identify a trademark logo, or answer a basic question about copyright, providing candy as prizes.
We make an effort to keep our PTRC at the forefront of the minds of those who might make referrals to us. We participate in KSBDC meetings and Inventors Association of South Central Kansas (IASCK) meetings. In September, I spoke to IASCK members about our PTRC resources in a more formal presentation than our standard introduction. In October, we attended the KSBDC’s Encountering Innovation Week as a resource partner where we networked with inventors and Department of Defense technology scouts. Each semester, Kuhlmann and I attend 1 Million Cups, a national network where business owners and start-ups give a short presentation about their business, answer questions, and ask for feedback from the community. I also attended a Women in Business Breakfast for the first time this year to network with other women professionals.
I feel it is important to reach out to entrepreneurs and inventors in the community who might need our PTRC services. We are fortunate to be part of an innovative campus culture and to have many networking and outreach opportunities in Wichita. While it is not feasible to travel to surrounding communities on a regular basis, we will continue to add to our online resources in our library guide and will continue to consult with patrons near and far.
(Left to right) John Kirkpatrick, Sara Butts, Shelley Self, and Nan Myers (May 2017)
Kansas Inventors Display at Ablah Library (May 2017)
Name That Invention game with PTRC information for the Technology Fair at the new Experiential Engineering Building on the WSU campus (March 2017)
Nan Myers and Sara Butts at the Kansas Small Business Development Center’s Encountering Innovation Week with inventors and Department of Defense technology scouts (October 2017)