Saturday, May 16, 2009

2009 National Trademark Expo

This month the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) held its 2009 National Trademark Expo ( ). It was open to the public and free. We went Saturday taking advantage of the free parking. As we walked from the parking garage to the expo we could see giant USPTO balloons tethered to the buildings. The kids shouted with excitement to see the big balloons. They were even more amazed as we climbed the steps and could see the others staked to the ground. The Cat in the Hat white glove and hat poked out of the ground before them. Off to the left was a life size Thomas The Tank Engine. Tucked in between was a bright red Jelly Belly. And behind them all was a gigantic USPTO shield on a balloon. In front of the building was a smaller balloon of the Jolly Green Giant.

Travelers insurance had an interactive screen. If you stood between the projector and the screen you could make their red umbrella trademarks scatter like a pile of fall leaves. It was a hit with the children and the adults who seemed torn between playing and figuring out how it worked.

Hershey’s chocolates were there. Really, there were 3 bowls that seemed to magically refill as everyone took samples of their famous trademarked kisses’, peanut butter cups, and candy bars. Their booth was filled with informative posters and fliers between other merchandise from their factories and theme park. The kids thought it was even more amazing to see life sized Reese’s peanut butter cups, Hershey’s Kisses’, and a Hershey’s candy bar walking around. As my son hugged a HUGE chocolate kiss the peanut butter cups walked up. The handler asked which he liked best, with that my son ran for the peanut butter cups shouting “PEANUT BUTTER!”

The USPTO said 25 characters attended. We saw at least 20 of them. My son shook hands or hugged 20 of the ones we saw. He said “hi” to Olive Oyl, Dennis the Menace, Betty Boop, Curious George, Peter Rabbit, Maisy Mouse, Reese’s peanut butter cups, Hershey’s Kisses’, Hershey’s candy bar, 4 Crayola Crayons (yellow, red, green, & orange), The Grinch, The Cat in the Hat, Faux Paw, Energizer Bunny, Pillsbury Dough Boy, and T. Markey (the USPTO Trademark mascot). Sprout got away without getting a handshake or a photo. Popeye and a few others didn’t come out while we were there.

My daughter is at the age where the characters are just a bit too scary. Those eyes don’t move and they are soooo big. Even when she saw Peter Rabbit she hid behind her dad. She refused to touch all but the Hershey's Kiss. But then, towards the end of our visit, Maisy Mouse came out to say hi. When she saw Maisy Mouse she went running to her, paused for a moment and then gave her a hug with a big smile.

The kids each had a chance to putt at the Callaway Golf Company. They sat still long enough for one story in the kids’ story time corner. The books featured the characters or the exhibitors attending the expo. The kids received ‘silver’ coins and water bottles from the US Air Force, who gave me a flyer on the right way to use their trademarks. I picked up a few trademark publications from the USPTO booth and more at the United States Department of Energy about their solar home competition. The booth that caught my attention the most was Internet Keep Safe Coalition. They were demonstrating their products featuring Faux Paw, the web-surfing techno cat ( ). This is a series to keep children safe on the internet and responsible use of technology. It is definitely something to check out since the kids will be surfing the web before long.

It was a very informative event with exhibits and seminars in the USPTO National Inventors’ Hall of Fame Museum Theater. The booths had trademark owners explaining their trademarks, showing the difference between their products and counterfeits, and activities for everyone. Who knew trademarks could be so much fun?

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