National Trademark Expo

The US Patent Trademark Office is a connection of colossal buildings with ties to the Department of Commerce. Headquartered in Alexandria, the purpose of the National Trademark Expo is to educate people on the purpose and importance of trademarks in society. You may wonder how children would find any interest in this type of event.

When you approach the Madison Building, it’s easy to spot the giant inflatables of Pinocchio, Bridgestone Tire, Cat in the Hat and collegiate mascots. The UPS Truck allowed visitors to explore inside a postal truck. There were Caterpillar machines and a NASCAR show car for 5 Hour-Energy.

Costumed characters dressed as Hershey’s Milk Chocolate Bar, Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups and Rita’s Ice Guy greeted fans at the entrance to the expo. A character unfamiliar to many was T. Markey, the trademark symbol.

The two day expo, held on October 14 and 15, opened with the great Chubby Checker and a performance by the U.S. Air Force’s rock band, Max Impact. Nearly thirty exhibitors were on the list including representatives from Homeland Security Immigration and Customs Enforcement, the International Trademark Association and the Idaho Potato Commission. The first stop for my daughter was the American Girl table.

They had a few of their popular dolls on display such as Bitty Baby, Molly McIntire, Kit Kittredge and girl of the year, Kanani. To coincide with the theme, they gave a ton of free goodies away including ‘I Can Do Anything’ inspirational smart cards, a mini art book, bookmark, American Girl magazine, coupons and a create-your-own Hawaiian necklace.

Mattel had an impressive setup of classic wooden toys and modern electronic versions. Kids were lined up to try out the Hot Wheels race tracks and toddlers got to play with a dancing Mickey Mouse and Fisher Price kitchen. A little boy was bummed that he couldn’t buy any of the neat toys displayed, but this is why it is an exhibition, to highlight and promote new products. A life size Barbie was present, but my child made a beeline for the doll version. There were only two dolls to enjoy along with Barbie’s dream house and van which caused a stir with several girls, including my own. She was fascinated with the fact that Barbie had an elevator in her house. On display was the newest craze for tweens, Monster High Dolls. Given the name and the appearance, they are a far cry from Barbie.

Every year, Mattel produces 80% in new toys, making it the number one filer of trademarks. While little ones gravitate to high tech toys, parents feel nostalgia for the original Fisher Price camera and wooden xylophone. There was a giant statue of He-Man which was a point of stopping for photographs, along with facts about the development of the doll. Don Aiken, Mattel’s vice president and Assistant General Counsel Law Department, tells families to “come out and have some fun” at the show.

Photo by Kathleen Molloy

Channel your inner rock star with Bigsby and the Gretsch Company guitars and pick up a tire pressure gauge at Bridgestone Tires. Caterpillar had a ride-on bulldozer simulator and a neat display of counterfeit versus authentic products. The U.S. Air Force handed out Frisbees, pens and crayons. There are ample opportunities for children to meet and greet costume characters. This year we saw Cat in the Hat, Curious George, Clifford, Popeye, The Pink Panther, Hamburger Helper, GEICO’s Gecko, and the Fruit of Loom crew.

Downstairs, kids lined up to get a ride on two Power Wheels vehicles and snag samples of Hershey’s chocolate, kisses and Reese’s. Elevation Burger, Rita’s Ice and The Girl Scout Council of the Nation’s Capital all teased us with no food samples. In fairness, Rita’s Ice gave out stickers, but Girl Scout cookies, well, I would have bought all the display boxes. Mark your calendar for The Girl Scouts Rock the Mall event marking the 100th anniversary sing-along will take place on the National Mall in June 2012. Throughout the day, local children’s bookstore, Hooray for Books! offered story time. I was bummed that Travellers Insurance’s interactive video was having technical difficulties and had to soothe my kiddo with an umbrella silly band.

I quickly changed gears when I spotted origami art making at the 1000 Cranes booth. Naomi Takeuchi, president of 1000 Cranes, established her strategic planning and consulting business in 2002. She was so patient teaching my daughter how to make a pink origami crane. The 1000 Cranes Legend is a Japanese symbol of honor. After the attack on Hiroshima, a young girl named Sadako Sasaki developed leukemia. She believed that if she folded 1,000 cranes that she would be cured. She died when she was only 12, before she could finish the cranes, but communities in Japan rallied around the idea of inspiration and buried her with the full 1,000 cranes. Takeuchi’s philosophy is that “anyone can make a difference in the world.”

Gretchen Ulrich, a trademark attorney, demonstrated a sound marks booth with a computer demonstration. Next time you hear the laugh from the Pillsbury Dough Boy commercial, the NBC jingle or the AOL You’ve Got Mail sound, you will recognize that it’s a trademark sound mark. Kids can learn about trademarks and creating their own invention online.

Be sure to visit the National Inventors Hall of Fame Museum. Exhibits change periodically and, on our visit, the topic was “Exercising Ingenuity in Fitness and Health.”

Restrooms and a cafe are located downstairs. Metered parking is available outside the building while the King Street metro is a ten minute walk.

The Bottom Line

Inventions and trademarks spur investment in commerce and job production. The Trademark Expo is a great way to introduce the public on trademarks we wouldn’t normally think about. It’s educating and guaranteed fun for children and adults. The two day event was free and open to the public. Expect next year’s event to be held the third week of October.

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OK Editorial Team

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