Fundamentals of IP Annual Trip to the USPTO

By: Brian Ducey

From the banks of the Raritan to the shores of the Potomac, students in the Fundamentals of Intellectual Property course traveled to Alexandria, Virginia to meet United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) staff to network and gain a far deeper understanding of the ways scientific innovation is protected and curated.  In the dark of night, many students boarded a chartered bus to begin the journey to the United States capital.  The students were in Virginia as the dawn light broke.  The MBS students from concentrations in life sciences, engineering and computer and information sciences are seeking a new dawn in their professional careers.  A firm grasp of intellectual property (IP) is key to many of their bright futures and what will make them shine apart from other young professional as they complete a very unique course of study in intellectual property.


The Madison Building houses the US Patent and Trade Office (USPTO).

The Rutgers students were restless and full of anticipation and as young professionals were greeted by USPTO staff.  The lobby of the Madison Building, where the USPTO is housed, has a bright and welcoming atmosphere and the hosts from USPTO were just as welcoming.

A panel of two patent examiners from biotechnology and electrical engineering and one of the USPTO attorneys from the Office of Policy and International Affairs (OPIA) presented the challenges and rewards they have experienced while carrying out their mission of fostering innovation, competitiveness and economic growth in the United States and abroad.  They shared their hopes for the future of domestic and global IP evolution, evidenced their passion for lifelong learning and provided nuanced answers to questions from the young professional scientists who will one day become examiners, apply for IP protection as inventors or craft strategies for business around IP policies.  The panel was knowledgeable, encouraging and generous with their time and insight.


MBS students and staff listen to USTPO experts on patent claims.

There was an in depth presentation on case law and landmark precedence in constructing claims.  The vison of the USPTO for crafting patent claims was presented so that the young professional scientists can learn from history and plot their strategies accordingly.  The dialog was rigorous enough to challenge technical backgrounds and clearly elucidated the areas of law, policy and procedure that will have equal bearing on IP outcomes.

OPIA Attorneys offered scenarios for why a patent, copyright or both would be a wise choice in software protection strategies.  Case law examples offered practical applications for the future of innovation in the public and private sectors of one of the most dynamic industries in our economy.


Details of past patent claims provide support for suggested claim strategies.

USPTO attorneys provided guidance in IP product design patents and trademarking.  A framework for making decisions affecting international design protections was offered under Trade Related Aspects of Intellectual Property Rights agreement (TRIPS).   Hot topics included a discussion of the future of IP product design and the potential treaties and trade agreements.  The future of IP enforcement solutions, internationally shared IP offices and digitalization of files and formats were all areas of speculation.

Legislation activities, international policy design and judicial tests from the Supreme Court were also topics to digest when we met with more attorneys from the USPTO’s Office of Governmental Affairs.  Our presenters shared their views of the current and future executive policy and legislative actions affecting.


Students returned to New Jersey after a full day of immersed in the machinery and theory that fuels and protects scientific innovation with Local Roots and Global Reach.