The Engineering-science Intellectual Property (ESIP) Project: A Novel Method for Promoting Innovation

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In the idea economy, intellectual property (IP) is valued higher than other assets such as factories and equipment. Affirmation of this valuation is often observed when a company’s IP advances or declines which causes a seismic shift in its stock price. IP law, however, is complicated and is evolving. As a result, new engineering and science graduates take many years, if ever, before they are familiar with the process of securing IP. Lack of such familiarity often results in IP being an after-thought in design processes. While others have attempted to discuss IP as part of a larger entrepreneurship setting in the form of a brief introduction of various IP vehicles, a solid understanding of what is protectable requires more than familiarity with IP concepts.

This paper describes the development and underlying theory of a novel educational program titled Engineering-Science Intellectual Property Project (ESIP-Project). This project includes three degree-counted elective courses that together create an IP concentration in an engineering BS curriculum. The intent of the project is to generate within students a deep understanding of IP requirements for creating novel, nonobvious, and non-infringing designs. In addition, the ESIP-Project is designed to teach IP concepts as they relate to engineering design, as well as critical thinking skills and innovation. More specifically, students will be prepared to engage in prior art review, identify what is needed to obtain enforceable designs, and apply strategies to avoid infringement of existing patents. At the culmination of ESIP-Project, students will be prepared to pass the patent bar examination and become certified to practice patent law before the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office. Hence, graduates of the ESIP-Project will have new career options including choices for becoming patent engineers and patent agents, in addition to traditional technical career choices.

This paper includes an overview of the three-course sequence, as well as evaluation results of the implementation of the first course. A survey was designed by the investigators and implemented pre and post course. The survey included three constructs: Knowledge of IP Concepts, Innovative Product Design, and Careers in Patent Law. Following reliability testing procedures, student responses to these constructs were compared before and after course implementation. Despite the small sample size (15 students), comparative analyses suggested students experienced strong, positive gains in each construct. These positive changes in student responses from participation in just one of three IP courses is encouraging to our team. We hope that the ESIP-Project model, and our evaluation of the model as we scale it up, will provide a pathway for other educators to follow, particularly those who are interested in promoting entrepreneurship and innovation among their students.

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Piroozi, H.R., Hess, J. L., & Feldhaus, C. (2018). The Engineering-science Intellectual Property (ESIP) Project: A Novel Method for Promoting Innovation. Presented at the 2018 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition. Retrieved from
2018 ASEE Annual Conference & Exposition
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