Purdue Libraries and School of Information Studies News

Navigating the Intellectual Property Universe: Insights from the USPTO, NASA, NAVSEA, ISBDC, and Purdue

February 6th, 2024

Libraries and School of Information Studies recently hosted experts from the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO), NASA, NAVSEA, the Indiana Small Business Development Center (ISBDC), and Purdue, who offered a unique opportunity for Boilermakers to gain a comprehensive understanding of intellectual property, trademark intricacies, and the pivotal role of tech transfer in today’s innovation landscape.

The first session of the day, Overview of IP, Trademark and Intro to NASA, served as a foundation for all participants, offering a glimpse into NASA’s fascinating IP portfolio and publicly available technology. Following, panelists from the USPTO, NASA, and ISBDC, guided by moderator Marilyn Nash, Regional Outreach Officer for the Midwest Regional USPTO, engaged in a thoughtful discussion on why innovators and entrepreneurs should prioritize safeguarding their IP. “Any great idea is worth stealing. If you’re thinking about starting a business, go ahead and get the protection. Trademark registration provides legal protection for your brand as well as brand distinction,” said Christina Calloway, attorney for Trademarks Customer Outreach with the USPTO. 

The event showcased the tools these agencies have available for inventors to leverage. “We have the capacity to serve as a valuable resource, facilitating connections and providing essential support services,” said Jeanne King, Innovation Partnership Specialist and the Software Release Authority at the NASA Glenn Research Center, Technology Transfer Office in Cleveland Ohio. 

“Indiana has a great ecosystem for assisting entrepreneurs and inventors reach their goals. The strength of this ecosystem comes from the power of synergistic partnerships, which is highlighted by partners coming together to help entrepreneurs at events such as these. If you need help navigating this ecosystem, we have resources available—from no-cost one-on-one consultants to discuss your specific business needs to accessing market research and finding sources of capital,” said Jordan Jicha, director of the Hoosier Heartland Small Business Development Center, which is housed on campus. Heather Howard, Associate Head of Information Studies, added “if you are Purdue-affiliated and are interested in doing market research for your idea, Purdue Libraries can help you with that. We have a wealth of market industry research available and other relevant resources.”

Fostering innovation and getting researchers to commit to the process of disclosing novel ideas and filing for intellectual property protection does come with challenges. Christian Butzke, Senior University Fellow for Innovation & Entrepreneurship at Purdue, highlighted the challenges and opportunities inherent in fostering a culture of entrepreneurship among faculty members. “The I&E fellows and ambassadors guide our faculty peers toward use-inspired research commercialization, towards our comprehensive Purdue Innovates entrepreneurial support ecosystem. However, in the entrepreneurship world, there are mentors and startup competitions abound, yet very little mid- to long-term funding—leading to a Series A or an exit—is available. This, coupled with a lack of time—faculty’s most precious resource—remains a major challenge for successful research commercialization. However, we’re actively addressing these challenges, sharing both success stories and lessons from setbacks and bottlenecks. Our aim is to shift academic culture, increase the societal impact of our research, while acknowledging the constraints posed by limited resources. Purdue stands as a leader in this endeavor, continuously seeking additional partnerships and investments, to build the best entrepreneurial ecosystem among public universities.”

Insights from Brooke Beier, Senior Vice President of Purdue Innovates, and Ken Waite, Chief Patent Counsel and Director of IP at Purdue Innovates provided a deeper understanding of the strategic initiatives driving innovation and IP management at Purdue. Purdue Innovates is the gateway to resources and financial support for campus inventors and entrepreneurs. Its Office of Technology Commercialization helps to amplify the impact of research on campus. 

Purdue is privileged to count Associate Professor Dave Zwicky among its ranks, serving as the Patent & Trademark Resource Center (PTRC) librarian right here on campus. “PTRC operates as a nationwide network of libraries, offering invaluable insights into the patent and trademark processes. Through our services, we equip individuals with comprehensive information on navigating these intricate domains. My role extends to educating on patent and trademark searching techniques, empowering interested parties to conduct thorough and effective searches,” said Zwicky. 

The day concluded with a session on exploring IP career paths in the federal government, in which students were guided through exciting possibilities in federal government careers, offering valuable advice on job opportunities at NASA and the USPTO for U.S. citizens. Both agencies highlighted that these opportunities are available for graduates from a diverse range of disciplines, and not limited to engineering or science students. “We offer design patent examiner positions specifically tailored for graduates in design and art disciplines, highlighting our commitment to embracing diverse talents and skill sets,” said Norca Torres, Patent Reexamination Specialist, who coordinated this program for the Midwest Regional Office. 

“I am currently pursuing my Ph.D. in Horticulture, and as I contemplate the next steps in my career, my passion for Technology Transfer has ignited a profound interest within me. I was very excited to learn of today’s event and meet experts from the USPTO, NASA and more. The prospect of engaging in discussions about scientific innovations, aiding inventors in bringing their creations to fruition—whether through patents or by addressing global challenges—genuinely excites me. In graduate school, the emphasis is often primarily on cultivating skills as a proficient scientist. Recognizing the need to proactively seek out opportunities beyond this academic scope, I eagerly seized the chance to attend today’s event.”  George Meyer, Ph.D. student in Horticulture 

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