The Military Influencer Conference (MIC) is an annual gathering of the leaders, entrepreneurs, content creators, creatives, and brands who shape and support the military community. At MIC, industry experts lead panels and offer opportunities for transitioning from the military, starting or scaling businesses, serving in non-profit organizations or creating social impacts, or working in media and entertainment.

At MIC 2023, there was a stand-out participant: The United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO). Making its inaugural appearance at the annual conference, the USPTO took center stage, engaging with hundreds of veterans and military families. USPTO professionals provided detailed explanations about intellectual property protection, such as patents and trademarks, and offered a wealth of resources to support their ventures.

“The USPTO provides free general resources as well as resources directly applicable to the military community that allow military veterans to understand the impact of their entrepreneurial endeavors and the importance of their perspective in creating and innovating products and/or services,” explained Christina Calloway, one of the USPTO representatives and MIC attendees.

By attending the conference in person and connecting directly with veterans and military spouses, Calloway realized that most of the attendees knew how to access USPTO information and resources but needed some assistance sifting through the information in the most applicable ways to their startups and businesses. She and the rest of the USPTO team were able to personally help provide information tailored specifically to the military community.

“One of the biggest takeaways from attending the MIC in person was being able to provide valuable information directly to the attendees,” agreed Christy Whitaker, a military spouse and member of the USPTO team. “We had the opportunity to visit with folks from various stages in their entrepreneurial journey and explain the services and resources available to them.”

As a member of the military community herself, one of the highlights for Whitaker was having a platform to highlight the USPTO’s Women’s Entrepreneurship (WE) program and Military Outreach program, of which the latter is focused on providing entrepreneurship resources and tools to service members and their families. “It was a wonderful way to convey that we recognize the needs of specific communities,” she said.

The USPTO offers many resources and tools for those who are just starting out. They even have a dedicated page for startups. On this page, entrepreneurs can find resources on how to secure funding and links for information on IP fundamentals, such as filing a patent application or registering a trademark. The site also contains practical information and useful tools from a wide variety of government agencies, including the Small Business Administration (SBA), the Minority Business Development Administration (MBDA), and Small Business Development Centers (SBDCs). These agencies can assist entrepreneurs at every stage of growing their business, from the initial idea to entering the global marketplace.

It’s clear from talking with the USPTO team that attending MIC in person was fundamentally rewarding, not just because they were able to connect directly with veterans and military spouses but because they could find ways to go the extra mile to help them.

“Our debut at the conference underscored how much work there is still to do,” observed Jason Lott. “It’s true that the USPTO has brand recognition among some entrepreneurs. They ran over to our booth and couldn’t wait to share stories of their successful patent grants and trademark registrations. It’s one of the greatest feelings in the world to see how much the work of our agency affects and supports success. But the flip side was seeing how many people still needed basic information. So it really highlighted for me how important it was that we were there and getting an opportunity to meet folks where they are. And I’m really looking forward to the opportunity to attend upcoming MIC events and reach even more business owners.”

Another thing the team agreed on was recognizing the strength of the military community when tackling the demands of business ownership. “Whether it’s a patent, a trademark, a copyright, or a trade secret, you’re dealing with pretty complex issues,” said Lott. “Other folks might stand down. But not the folks I saw at the conference. They were willing to dig in, figure out what needed to be done, and then go for it. Which makes sense, given their prior military service.

One of the most fundamental USPTO resources used by startups is the Trademark Basics Boot Camp. This is a totally free, totally virtual, eight-week course that helps business owners understand trademarks and the federal trademark registration process. It’s designed to cover the basics and then build from there.

During the conference, the USPTO representatives unveiled a treasure trove of resources specifically tailored for veterans and military families. These valuable tools, accessible at USPTO’s Entrepreneurship Resources for Veterans and Military Families, serve as a compass for navigating the intricate landscape of patents, trademarks, and intellectual property. From informative guides to interactive workshops, the USPTO laid the foundation for veterans and military families to protect and propel their groundbreaking ideas.

“If you think about it, Uncle Sam still needs you, even if you’re no longer solving problems as a service member,” Lott said of entrepreneurs within the military community. “Now you’re just doing it in a different context. Your new invention might change the world, creating products and services that consumers never knew they needed. Or your new business might change your own world, creating generational wealth or a change in perspective. It’s hard to say, except that intellectual property protection is key to making that happen. And if you go down that road, the USPTO is here to support you on your journey.”