As President Obama declared in his State of the Union address, “When women succeed, America succeeds.” Here at the Department of Commerce, we are committed to strengthening the role of women in business and technology. Among the Department’s many initiatives aimed toward advancing this goal are the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office’s (USPTO) efforts to empower our country’s women to innovate and create good jobs.
The USPTO provides the training and tools to encourage more women to get involved in, and contribute to, our innovation and knowledge-based economy.
In fiscal year 2013 alone, USPTO worked with over 3,000 girls through targeted programming focused on intellectual property (IP) and science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) opportunities, including workshops on 3D printing, invention concepts, engineering design, game development, product packaging, and patent and trademark protection.
One of USPTO’s many successful collaborations occurred this past November when they teamed up with representatives from Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority to support the 2013 Girls Rock: Emerging Young Leaders Empowerment Conference, hosted at Woodson High School in Washington, DC. Over 300 girls spent the day learning about applied chemistry, coding, and robotics, and the USPTO workshop focused on encouraging girls to combine their STEM skills with IP knowledge and entrepreneurship skills.
In an effort to build regional clusters to spur creativity and entrepreneurship and to encourage more women and minorities to innovate, USPTO has also focused greater attention on programs with school districts including Alexandria City, District of Columbia, Prince Georges County, Howard County, Detroit, MI, and Los Angeles, CA.
USPTO’s outreach also includes their participation in many public-private partnerships, like supporting the Women Veterans Igniting the Spirit of Entrepreneurship program and providing female veterans with the tools to become successful entrepreneurs.
The USPTO is also actively engaged in patent reform initiatives that are designed to limit “patent trolling.” Lawsuits brought by patent trolls typically target small and medium sized enterprises. With women owning over 7.8 million U.S. businesses worth over $1.2 trillion in generated receipts, these reforms efforts will have a positive impact on women in business and throughout the business community.
In addition to its patent reform efforts, USPTO will launch the Girl Scout Intellectual Property Patch in mid-March, giving up to 90,000 Girl Scouts in Washington, DC, Maryland, Virginia, and West Virginia the opportunity to explore intellectual property creation and protection.
USPTO is also collaborating with the University of Denver, the Colorado Small Business Development Center, the Colorado Bar Association, and U.S. Senator Michael Bennet to host the Third Annual USPTO Women’s Entrepreneurship Symposium in Denver from March 20-21. The symposium will focus on female entrepreneurs and the significance of IP protection.
These efforts are taken seriously throughout all levels of the USPTO and the Department of Commerce. USPTO Deputy Director Michelle Lee brings years of private sector expertise to her current position and has always encouraged more women to pursue science, technology, engineering, and math (STEM) careers. As former director of the USPTO’s Silicon Valley satellite office and co-founder of ChIPs (Chief IP Counsels), an organization dedicated to advancing the careers of women in patent-related fields, Michelle has been committed to closing the gender gap.
However, there is always more to do.
As a business leader and entrepreneur for 27 years, I support women who want to start a business. Innovation is a major pillar of the Commerce Department’s “Open for Business Agenda, ” and if we are successful in providing more paths for women – and all Americans – to innovate and create jobs, I am confident that our nation will become even more competitive in the years ahead.
Penny Pritzker is the Secretary for the Department of Commerce