Season 5 Ep #2 USPTO History Matters

  • Season 5 Ep #2 USPTO History Matters

This episode of IP Goes Pop!® takes listeners on an intimate journey into the archives of the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) and their historical significance. Guided by USPTO historian Rebekah Oakes, co-hosts, Shareholders, and Intellectual Property Attorneys Michael Snyder and Joseph Gushue explore the agency's rich history and its impact on innovation and intellectual property.

The conversation kicks off with reflections on famous movies and TV series that draw connections between historical figures and their influence on pop culture such as National Treasure, John Adams, and Bill & Ted's Excellent Adventure. The discussion expands to the founding fathers' involvement in the patent system and the integration of patent rights into the Constitution.

The episode then transitions to the introduction of Rebekah Oakes, who shares her expertise in documenting the history of the agency and conducting extensive research on the story of innovation and intellectual property in America. The discussion encompasses the digitization of resources, the agency's outreach to the public to gather historical artifacts (including pre-numbered patents and patent models), and how the history of innovation has the ability to connect the present to the past.

Rebekah, the second historian at the agency, shares her passion for the role, the agency, and her team's efforts to create a comprehensive institutional chronology that gives a fuller picture of innovation in America.

Listeners are encouraged to explore the USPTO's resources on agency history, innovator stories, and journeys of innovation, for an inside look at the agency and its commitment to making intellectual property protections accessible to everyone. The episode concludes with the hosts emphasizing the importance of history and innovation, culminating in an inspirational reminder from Rebekah that everyone alive today is part of history and that anyone is capable of contributing to innovation.

For more conversations and expert discussions on intellectual property’s intersection with pop culture, tune in to IP Goes Pop!®, the podcast that brings the world of intellectual property right to your ears.


1:15 US Patent Office Episodes with IP Goes Pop

1:24 IP in Pop-Culture History: Famous Movies & TV Shows

8:02 Introducing USPTO Historian Rebekah Oakes 

  • Role of Historian
    • Documenting the agency's history and process used to do so
    • General History of Innovation and Entrepreneurship in USA
  • Archives and Resources Rebekah uses
    • National Archives
    • University and Community Libraries
    • Crowdsourcing
      • John Adams's patent from family archives
    • Patent Office Museum: National Inventors' Hall of Fame
      • First Publicly Funded Museum
      • Home of Declaration of Independence (1842)

13:07   History of Patent Models (Required through 1870s)

14:43 Curating History

  • How long has the patent office had a historian?
  • Challenges of documenting and preserving the legacy of an agency that has existed since 1802
    • Two fires in agency history
    • Myth busting around innovation (i.e. the Genius Myth)
  • Interesting discoveries in the archives
    • Relatable stories of invention
      • Sarah Sewell, Combined Washing Machine and teeter-totter or seesaw
      • Invention of Play-Doh for coal dust and remarketing as toy for children
    • Patents Pivotal for Shaping Society

24:03 Initiatives the Patent Office Does to Protect its History

  • Capturing Complete Picture of Office’s History
    • Oral and Document Based
  • Ex-Patents Crowdsourcing
    • The entire record burned in a fire
  • Importance of Recognizing American Innovation
  • Fostering an understanding of why history is relevant to us today

27:43 USPTO Resources for History

31:33 Final Thoughts

  • Rebekah’s
    • We are creating the history of tomorrow (keep a journal)
    • Every invention (filed for) becomes part of history
  • Joe’s
    • History matters
    • Anyone is capable of being an inventor
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