Encouraging our kids to dream up new ideas and improve on old ideas can put them on the road to success. Making sure they understand that there are clear rules about owning ideas, and what they are allowed to do with ideas they do not own, will help keep them from driving into a ditch along the way.
It seems to me that the problem of piracy is at least in part attributable to a poor understanding of and appreciation for intellectual property rights. If so, I think we have some obligation as parents to add the concept into the discussions with our kids.
So how do we go about teaching our children the importance of giving owners of ideas their due? The front page of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office’s “For Kids” looks pretty thin on the surface, although I now desperately want a Nikola Tesla trading card from their series (image from the USPTO site).
However, follow the link to their i-CREATM (or “I ©®ea™, get it?) page and you’ll find links to curriculum and lessons (with printable activity sheets) for elementary, middle school, and high school kids.
They also link to Invent Now, which primarily focuses on inventing itself, but includes lessons on patenting those inventions. And if you are in the DC area, you can stop by the National Inventors Hall of Fame and Museum, at the Patent and Trademark Office Building in Old Town Alexandria.
There are also some useful resources available from our friends across the pond. A couple years back, my family had the opportunity to visit friends in Scotland. At the time, the Intellectual Property Office in the UK was sponsoring “A World of Cracking Ideas” featuring Wallace and Gromit at the Glasgow Science Centre. The exhibit has since moved on to Australia, if you happen to find yourself Down Under.
Side Note: For those of you who do not know Wallace and Gromit, they are made of plasticine and are awesome. Stop what you are doing and go watch some of their adventures now, on the official site or through some legitimate service like Netflix please.
The exhibit featured games and activities for youngsters that encouraged innovation, while subtly teaching the basics of intellectual property.
Luckily, you don’t have to actually go to the exhibit to take advantage of their curriculum, although you do if you want your picture taken with the Wallace and Gromit costumed characters. There is much available on the A World of Cracking Ideas website, including their Stuff to Do page, which has a couple playable online games and lots of printable activities.
These are only tools, however. What will really have an impact is our ability as parents to integrate the concept of intellectual property as our children play and create. We can teach them that their creations have value, and that just as they want and deserve credit for those creations, so do all inventors, writers, artists, and musicians.