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USPTO Empowers Innovation among Black Inventors and Entrepreneurs

25-Feb-2024 | Source : The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) | Visits : 804

By increasing the number of Patent and Trademark Resource Centers at HBCUs

WASHINGTON - Historically Black Colleges and Universities (HBCUs) have played a critical role in advancing intergenerational economic mobility for Black families and communities throughout generations. Additionally, HBCUs have been instrumental in fostering innovation and intellectual property development. Today, HBCUs continue to foster innovation among Black inventors and entrepreneurs with the help of Patent and Trademark Resource Centers (PTRCs) in partnership with the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO).

According to the Office, PTRCs are part of a national network of public, state, and academic libraries designated by the USPTO to offer trademark and patent assistance to the public. These local centers support the intellectual property needs of the public by providing a human touch. PTRC library staff are local information experts trained by the USPTO on how to use search tools to access information and help people navigate their patent and trademark journey. Services include online resources, research consultations, and workshops to share information on the importance of intellectual property.

“Patents and trademarks are key to establishing ownership rights to inventions and brands that bring tangible economic benefits to their owners,” said Kathi Vidal, Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Director of the USPTO, who designated three HBCUs as PTRCs in 2023. “We are committed to increasing the number of PTRCs at HBCUs and educational programs across the country to ensure that Black creators, inventors, and entrepreneurs have access to these key resources.”

Currently, four HBCU libraries have been designated as PTRCs:

• Howard University’s Founders Library, designated on December 8, 1986 
• John B. Cade Library at Southern University and A&M College, designated on October 12, 2023 
• John B. Coleman Library at Prairie View A&M University, designated on October 16, 2023 
• Miller F. Whittaker Library at South Carolina State University, designated on December 6, 2023

In the continued effort to expand the number of PTRCs across the country, Director Vidal issued letters to 600 libraries across the country, including all HBCUs, inviting each institution to consider becoming PTRCs to assist their local innovators.

Adia Coleman, Head of the Business Library at Howard University, first learned about the importance of intellectual property from her father who was an entrepreneur and had one of his ideas stolen. This understanding helps her identify with those that visit the PTRC.

“Having these resources at HBCUs helps to empower people,” said Coleman. “There’s a fear that an idea can be stolen the moment that it’s shared. Speaking and meeting with someone that looks like you, can help entrepreneurs and inventors feel more comfortable knowing that their ideas are safe.”

Local partnerships with Greater Washington Urban League, DC Chamber of Commerce, Black Chambers of Commerce, DC Local and Small Business Project, and the Women’s Business Center, provide Howard University’s Founders Library the opportunity to reach the greater community. In 2023, the PTRC at Howard University assisted more than 160 people through research consultations.

“Intellectual property is a valuable asset,” said Derrick Brent, Deputy Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Deputy Director of the USPTO. “Patents, trademarks, copyrights, and trade secrets make possible this system of new businesses, and successful entrepreneurs. We are grateful for these HBCU PTRCs which provide students and local communities with hands-on education in invention and entrepreneurship, helping to achieve a more inclusive and successful innovation ecosystem.”


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