By Rachelle Mulumba
This year, the theme for World Intellectual Property Day 2022, which was held April 26, focused on IP and Youth innovating for a Better Future and explored how young innovative, energetic and creative minds are driving positive change. Find out how young inventors, creators and entrepreneurs can use intellectual property (IP) rights to achieve their goals, generate income, create jobs, tackle local and global challenges and support community and national development here.
In celebration of the occasion, our founder Dr. Gary Michelson joined the Licensing Executives Society (LES) for a jam-packed virtual event. Scott Williams, President and Chair of LES for the U.S. and Canada, opened the afternoon, reminding the audience of the importance of IP for youth innovation.
“One of the goals of this year’s World IP Day is to build awareness for young people of how IP can have a positive impact and provide opportunity. In response, LES has created a Young Members Taskforce. This recently launched program has seen great popularity,” Williams said.
“Our society is fueled by innovations of thought and new technology. Today’s youth have a lot to look forward to,” IP Attorney Raymond Van Dyke and moderator stated in agreement.
Together with other innovators and high-profile members of the intellectual property community, including newly appointed United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) Director Kathi Vidal and former directors Andrei Iancu, Bruce Lehman, and Jon Dudas, Dr. Michelson made the salient case for IP literacy for the youth:
“We’ve had university chancellors say that their goal is to prepare students for the future. But in my day, the great companies were Ford and General Motors. All of the companies today like Facebook, Amazon, Uber and Microsoft were founded by someone who was in the college student demo. So how is it possible that our universities aren’t at least teaching the basics of intellectual property?”
Van Dyke highlighted Dr. Michelson achievements, having turned his inventive legacy toward giving back with the development of the Michelson Institute for Intellectual Property. Since its founding in 2016, last year Michelson IP reached the milestone of enrolling over 20,000 learners for our free, Udemy online course, validating the need for IP education across the board. In fact, the course itself reached over double the average enrollment for a Business course on the platform by 2017.
“I have to also give credit to the University of Southern California for being the first institution to adapt our curriculum into a full IP course. Its introduction was such a success that students filled up the registration and waiting lists wanting to get in,” Dr. Michelson said.
Still the conversation highlighted that there was plenty to be done in the way of increasing equity and inclusion with intellectual property literacy and education since IP ownership can still be a very closed process. The mission of Michelson IP is to take a complex topic and make it more accessible and widely understood and Dr. Michelson hopes that the USPTO—now under the official new leadership of Kathi Vidal—can provide federal support in the work.
“The USPTO could certainly do more in the way of outreach. For instance, I think that provisional patent applications are a great tool for creators getting started. If more people knew how to utilize them, they wouldn’t feel locked out. The USPTO could help to let people know that if they have an idea, ok here’s how you move forward…make the process less opaque,” Michelson explained.
He also explained that the goal of the agency should be to solve and prevent disparities in the intellectual property system just as with other systems: “For instance, only 18% of patent holders today are women. I do think the situation is improving at the educational level with STEM. And we’ve encouraged more women to go into the hard sciences but we can do more, ” he added.
Van Dyke also turned his sights to matters of diversity, equity, and inclusion. Dr. Michelson made it clear that Michelson IP and the 20MM Foundation were walking the walk with the launch of the HBCU IP Futures Collaborative and holding a spotlight to the facts around these historical institutions.
“The American Sociological Association reported that 50% of all African-American engineers are graduates of HBCUs. However, everything comes down to the availability of capital. If you come from a wealthy family, you have an advantage. If not, you have a much better shot to file and gain something proprietary in order to compete. Our new initiative with these institutions aims to bring the awareness and education needed to make that happen,” Michelson stated.
Concluding on an inspirational note, Van Dyke prompted Dr. Michelson to speak to the ingredients that innovative youth of today need to succeed:
“Creative adults are merely children that dare to color outside the lines. What the youth has now is intellect, knowledge and imagination, which is great. You also have to be willing to fail. If you keep going, you just iterate on that failure. And I think this is the single most important word: perseverance. It’s what I tell my own children and it is that single quality that makes all the difference.”
The Michelson Institute for Intellectual Property, an initiative of the Michelson 20MM Foundation, provides access to empowering IP education for budding inventors and entrepreneurs. Michelson 20MM was founded thanks to the generous support of renowned spinal surgeon Dr. Gary K. Michelson and Alya Michelson. To learn more, visit 20mm.org.