6 Creative Ways to Inspire Students to Learn More About Intellectual Property

Invention and creative expression are a journey, not a one-step process accompanied by a flash of light.

Simplifying the invention process for students can help to nurture the next generation of  creators, and provide them a better appreciation of the process and inventors who generate them. It is also important for young people to know some products of the mind have value and can be protected.

“I had very little exposure to IP during my time at school,” says Sam Cox, a creative technologist who designs products, services and experiences, from futuristic cat habitats to social distancing Snapchat filters told Cracking Ideas.

“Cracking Ideas” is a product of the UK IP Office. It offers a variety of content from animations to games that are designed to get young students interested in IP and familiar with IP rights, including copyrights, trademarks and patents.

Demystifying IP and IP rights — and connecting them to peoples’ lives — is what can make a difference between a passive observer and active IP creator.

The following article is adapted from the UKIPO’s excellent piece for teachers and condensed for space. Please note: UK IP laws are very similar to those in the U.S. and other nations, but not the same.

1. Can you spot the IP?

When we eat KFC or drink Coca-Cola, we’re consuming IP. From trade secrets like the KFC original recipe to registered designs like Coca-Cola’s distinctive bottle shape, IP protects products, ideas and experiences that we love. Not every idea can be protected, but your students may be surprised at just how many are.

Show pupils that IP is all around them with an IP treasure hunt. Teach the class the core concepts of IP using this easy explainer [It is accompanied by a wonderfully catchy music that compels attention.]

2. Storytelling

IP doesn’t have to mean dry legal theory. The UKIPO’s tailored lesson plans are packed with fun and accessible stories. They’re suitable for all key stages and for subjects including media studies, music, design technology and business studies.

For students under 12, “Nancy and The Meerkats” follows a small, furry musician and her band as she battles her nemesis, Kitty Perry. The radio series and podcast cover logo design, writing and remixing songs, recording concerts and sharing them online (on MewTube, of course).

3. Invention is a process, not an end

The learning from the model-making workshop didn’t end when the session did; pupils were inspired to continue creating and refining their products and to learn more about developing them.

“It’s inspiring to see the children come out with inventive ways of achieving their goal,” says Evalie. “Often the final product isn’t an end in itself. Many children carried on thinking about how they could improve on their original model and what they could do next. They saw it as an ongoing process.”

Children, like inventors and other creators, need to learn
how to fail before they can succeed. 

By encouraging students to see invention as a journey rather than a one-stop process, we can help to nurture the next generation of inventors.

4. Capture students’ competitive spirit

Competitions can encourage students to look at the world around them and think of ways to make things quicker and better.

The Cracking Ideas campaign from the UKIPO and Aardman is a good way to kick-start this creative process in students. There are a series of films featuring warm-up activities, inspiration and tips and tricks to keep the ideas flowing for the annual competition.

Business Battle shows students what it’s like to patent their own product and battle it out for success. Play the online game with between two and 10 teams to take students’ competitive, commercial spirit to the next level.

5. Spark a debate about IP rights and how they are used

IP is frequently taught in music lessons, so why not switch it up and invite students to debate the line between inspiration and infringement? There are many famous court cases they can discuss, such as the Marvin Gaye and Blurred Lines lawsuit.

With copyright being an automatic right, how can you ensure that the rightful owner is credited with their work? Anything created online will be dated with time created, drawings and illustrations can be photographed with a time stamp. Or you can post your originals in a sealed envelope.

Why not have students copyright a song for themselves in real time? They may not be going to court over their creations any time soon, but it could be the first step in seeing themselves as creators of ideas that have value.

Students can also role play creating and pitching ideas for a TV or film production, negotiating a commercial contract, or defending their inventions in a mock trial.

6. Connect IP with careers

More than 40% of primary-school students surveyed by Barclays Business Banking said they wanted to start their own business one day. Of those, more than a fifth wanted to start a digital business, like app-building, vlogging or video game design.

To thrive in digital careers, young people need to know their way around IP; the difference between reproduction and infringement, open-source and protected code, copyright and patent could be crucial.

Humble Beginnings

Even the greatest inventions start from humble beginnings. The Cracking Ideas competition helps young people to see the potential in everyday objects and activities. Students aged 4-11 can enter.

All they need to do is reimagine an everyday object to help get jobs done quicker and better.

For an easy-to-understand one-page overview of IP and IP rights from the Center for Intellectual Property Understanding, visit IPBasics.org at www.IPBasics.org

Image source: UKIPO

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