In Celebration of Women Entrepreneurs

Guest blog by Deputy Director Teresa Stanek Rea

It was about one year ago that I was appointed Deputy Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Deputy Director of the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). When I started working here last March one of my first charges was to give opening remarks at the 1st Annual Women’s Entrepreneurship Symposium co-hosted by the USPTO and the United States Women’s Chamber of Commerce (USWCC). At the event, I had the pleasure of meeting U.S. Senator Mary L. Landrieu (D-La.), chair of the Senate’s Small Business Committee, who served as the symposium’s keynote speaker. What an amazing way to begin my journey here at the USPTO!

Now, one year later, I am excited to be able to blog about some of the special activities that are happening for Women’s History Month this year. To kick off the month, the USPTO and the National Women’s Business Council (NWBC) will be paying tribute to women whose ingenuity and inventions have improved our lives. “Women Entrepreneurs: Celebrating the Past, Inventing the Future,” is being held March 1 in the USPTO’s Madison building auditorium in Alexandria, Va., and is open to the public. The event will highlight the passage of the America Invents Act and one provision specifically that allows the USPTO to begin tracking the gender of patent applicants.

Tracking the gender of patent applicants is of particular interest to NWBC, because they recently commissioned a comprehensive study on women who applied for and received patents or trademarks over the last 35 years. The results of this study will be released at the March 1 event, but preliminary findings already indicate that the number of women obtaining patents has accelerated in recent years. The largest spike came in 2010, when 22,984 patents were granted to women, a 35 percent jump over the previous year.

Meanwhile, a new exhibit will be opening from our friends from the National Inventor’s Hall of Fame (NIHF) on “Feminine Ingenuity – How Women Inventors are Changing our World.” The exhibit highlights how women inventors have changed our world. It features 19 women inductees of the NIHF and their significant innovations that have changed the way we work and live.

Later in the month in Shreveport, Louisiana, the USPTO will sponsor its 2nd Annual Women’s Entrepreneur Symposium. The symposium provides opportunity to learn about patents and trademarks, get tips from experienced inventors, as well as gather important information on how to start or grow a business in the 21st century. It will focus on women entrepreneurs, the importance of IP protection for their innovations, and how to leverage economic opportunities for women-owned businesses. Agenda topics will include IP in the global marketplace, strategies to leverage IP assets, accessing financial resources, driving business growth by leveraging business relationships, and federal contracting. The conference will be held March 25 – 26 and Senator Landrieu will participate once again. 

There are also more intimate events that may be of interest to you. On March 3, the USPTO is partnering with the Smithsonian Institution to present a Family Day program entitled “Women’s History Month:  A Celebration of Innovation and Invention.” The program will be held in the Kogod Courtyard of the National Portrait Gallery, the building that once was the home of the USPTO, and will feature musical performances, historical interpretations, and an inventors’ corner with hands-on art, science, and engineering activities.  

On March 10, the USPTO will host a panel discussion of the Girl Scout Research Institute Generation STEM (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics) report that was released in February. We are doing this in collaboration with the Girl Scout Council of the Nation’s Capital and the Mid Atlantic Girls Collaborative (MAGIC) organization. The event will include volunteers, leaders, teen girls, community partners, and others in the GSUSA STEM network. And on March 12, the 100th anniversary of Girl Scouts, two local Brownie troops will be coming to the museum and the USPTO for a visit to see the Women’s History Month display and conduct an experiment in connection with earning their Inventor’s Badge. 

It should be an exciting month at the USPTO and as a scientist and a patent attorney, I am glad to see all these activities celebrating women involved in STEM activities. I hope you will join me in celebrating Women’s History Month.