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Intellectual Property

Teaching Students To Protect Their Ideas With Trademarks

For educators nationwide, intellectual property (IP) is a topic that can often seem intimidating. From legal jargon to a lack of familiarity with the subject, many factors can lead educators to avoid teaching IP altogether.

Part of our mission at the National Inventors Hall of Fame® (NIHF) is to help change this — not only because of the important role of IP in STEM (science, technology, engineering and mathematics) and innovation, but also because of its relevance in students’ everyday lives.


Teaching Trademarks

Trademarks are one of the more accessible aspects of IP. They help consumers identify a product, service or business, and they can take many forms including words, designs, sounds, colors and even scents. Familiar examples include Nike’s “Just Do It” slogan, Target’s bullseye logo, the Pillsbury Doughboy’s laugh, Tiffany & Co.’s Tiffany Blue® and even the smell of Play-Doh.

What makes trademarks such a great topic to teach and explore with students is that they are everywhere. Many of the shoes they wear, the types of cereal they eat and the sounds their devices make have protected trademarks that are instantly recognizable.

Any item with the symbol or ® means that its product name, symbol, design or slogan is protected and no one else can use it without permission.

When you see a ® on a product, it means the creator filed a trademark application, paid a fee to the government and was successful in federally registering their unique mark for use in commerce. Any item with a has not yet been registered by the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO).

If you’re incorporating invention education techniques into your in-school curricula, you might try out an activity where students design logos for their invention prototypes. Based on the name of their invention, some trademarks might be more memorable or effective than others. Invite your class to vote on the different trademark-worthy designs that students create and lead discussions on what makes certain trademarks stand out from the competition.


Exploring IP at Camp Invention

In this summer’s all-new Camp Invention® program, children will take part in an experience called NIHF’s The Attic, where they have the opportunity to explore trademarks as they learn about the different ways inventors protect their inventions.

Because trademarks can protect a word, phrase or symbol, campers learn that this form of IP can be used to protect the unique shoe designs they will be creating and improving throughout the week.

Learn More About Teaching IP

For more support in introducing students to IP, we encourage you to read more of NIHF’s “Guide to Intellectual Property” series by visiting our blog!

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