During the USPTO’s recent University Outreach Engagement Series, the importance of inventing and IP was on full display the moment each session appeared on the screen.

As has been the case throughout the world, COVID-19 forced the program to be online only. Without the existence of teleconferencing technology and IP protections, America’s ability to do business could have been significantly affected.

This innovation had a dramatic impact on the country’s social and economic well-being, as well as the success of the USPTO program.

In just three months—October 2020 to January 2021—the Outreach Engagement Series attracted more than 2,500 students and faculty at 25 colleges and universities. The digital, virtual sessions provided an opportunity for the USPTO to expand its student outreach throughout the country with each session, and engage with the next generation of innovators, entrepreneurs, and IP professionals.

Then-USPTO Director Andrei Iancu gave a short history reminder to attendees.

He noted that after the signing of the Declaration of Independence, it took about two weeks for word to get from Philadelphia to Williamsburg, Virginia—which was the same amount of time it took Alexander the Great to send messages of his victory back to his capital in 331 B.C.

In other words, “the state of the human condition, just about 200 years ago or so, was the same as it was in antiquity.”

The primary force that has accelerated the human condition so quickly in the past couple centuries, he said, was IP—beginning with the IP clause in the U.S. Constitution. Article I, Section I, Clause 8 gives exclusive rights to inventors and authors for their respective discoveries and writings, resulting in a modern democratic patents and copyrights system.

The USPTO fulfills this through online programs, such as a recent one with renowned inventor Dr. Marian Croak, where a class of third-graders was able to ask her questions. The USPTO also supports children’s hands-on participation in inventive activity through Camp Invention, an annual summer camp run by the National Inventors Hall of Fame.

The engagement series is run through the Office of Education and Office of Innovation Outreach.