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Patent Office Asks Kids For Ideas

You don't see a lot of TV ads from the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office but you will. However, if you're over age 12, don't pay any attention.

On July 31, the USPTO in partnership with the National Inventors Hall of Fame Foundation and the AdCouncil launched its multimedia "Inspiring Invention" campaign to insure that U.S. leadership in innovation and technology is firmly anchored with the next generation.

USPTO spokeswoman Jennifer Rankin Byrne said the project targets kids 8-11 and is designed to inspire them to "use their imagination."

"Kids at this age are just naturally curious and inventive, and we want to capitalize on these creative abilities and inspire them to the message that ‘imagination is the link to invention," she said.

Undersecretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Director of the USPTO Jon Dudas said he is confident the new PSAs will "strengthen America's legacy of innovation by showing children how their talents and education help them change the world for the better."

Pretty ambitious goals, but Rankin said that the ads that direct kids and their parents to a kid-friendly Web site, will help them "explore a multitude of inventive interests in space, sports, design and entertainment." Plus, they can see what other kids are doing, like the recently posted animal feeder that "plays a recording of your voice calling out your pet's name and your pet comes to eat the food."

Richard Maulsby, the project's campaign director, said the site content was tested in several focus groups.

"We brought in boys and girls in this age group and tested them separately and together to try out the concepts and we were surprised to find that -- at this age group at least -- both genders liked the same thing," he said. But one of the ads, which used a ‘hide- and- seek' game theme had to be scrapped, as they learned "nobody plays hide and seek anymore

The USPTO decision to post every submitted idea reinforces the campaign goal to encourage kids' ideas, but not judge them by a set of rules.

"The point here is to get kids to think creatively, this is not school," Maulsby said. One look at the posted inventions -- ‘movies on your nails;' a ‘remote control that can control anything;' and ‘an Olympic oxygen mask,' -- affirms the anything-goes inventing process.

Although the program is Web-based, Maulsby said he hopes that kids without an Internet connection at home will find their way to the site through resources in schools, libraries or "wherever they usually go."

More than $30 million has been donated in media airtime to support the PSAs, now being distributed to radio, TV, outdoor, and the Web in 33,000 markets nationwide, the USPTO said.

Here's video of one young inventor's suction-cup bicycle riding on the ceiling: