Q. A few years ago, the USPTO launched a nationwide program to encourage small businesses to beef up their IP protection domestically and abroad. What were the results of that campaign and can you give us any updates?beresford

The campaign continues, and we are pleased to report that it’s been well-received. Success in today’s global economy depends more on intellectual property assets. In fact, IP-based businesses and entrepreneurs drive more economic growth in the United States than any other sector.

Unfortunately, intellectual property has captured the attention of pirates and organized crime. Every IP-based business is vulnerable to piracy and counterfeiting. Small businesses can be at a particular disadvantage because they often lack the resources and expertise available to larger corporations as well as familiarity with the need for protecting IP.

USPTO research in 2005 showed only 15 percent of small companies doing business overseas knew that a U.S. patent or trademark only provides protection in the United States.

As a participant in the federal government’s Strategy for Targeting Organized Piracy (STOP) initiative, rolled out in October 2004, the USPTO has responded to the challenge with an outreach campaign for small- and medium-sized enterprises.

The USPTO manages the STOP Hotline (1-866-999-HALT) that helps companies leverage government resources to protect intellectual property rights in the United States and abroad. In 2008, the STOP Hotline received 1,289 calls, including counterfeiting and piracy inquiries with respect to China and other countries.

The USPTO also offers a site under STOPFakes.gov, specifically written for small and mid-size companies, that covers patents, trademarks and copyright basics (www.stopfakes.com/smallbusiness).

Along with the Commerce Department and the Small Business Administration, the USPTO developed a Web-based 1.5 hour tutorial that provides companies with basic information about intellectual property, domestic and foreign, along with a needs-analysis tool to help identify assets that may be protected through intellectual property (http://www.stopfakes.gov/525/menu/index.htm).

We have offered IP Basics conferences for small and mid-size companies throughout the United States, where participants learn about intellectual property rights, why they are important and how to identify, protect and enforce these rights.

Other USPTO outreach initiatives have included China intellectual property-focused programs.  China is the top U.S. trading partner for intellectual property rights violations and these programs are directed for companies that are doing business in China or are thinking about doing business in China.

The USPTO plans to expand its China-related event to include intellectual property issues in India. We anticipate hosting each of these events at the USPTO headquarters in 2010.

The USPTO also offers educational programs – on request and at no charge – in a Web-based seminar format that can be tailored to the intellectual property issues most critical to the requesting organization.

Susan Anthony, an attorney-advisor at the USPTO’s Office of Intellectual Property Policy and Enforcement, contributed.