Patent office’s #creepyIP celebrates weird, wondrous inventions

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Pill-shaped isolation masks. Corpse lifters. Life-preserving coffins.

It’s the stuff of 1940s B-movie thrillers — and exactly the sort of creep-inducing creations the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office likes to feature on its social media accounts using the hashtag #creepyIP. For three years, the office has culled its extensive intellectual property image library for spooky art to post on Facebook and Twitter. Other agencies and private companies since have joined in the fun, using the hashtag to post their own spooky illustrations.

Such a kooky campaign might seem out of character for a stodgy-sounding government agency. But Paul Fucito, the USPTO communications officer who conceived of the idea, said the agency has engaged in a similar campaign during the Olympics.

“I kind of saw it as an extension of our Today in Trademark History, Today in Patent History posts that we were doing,” he said. He added, “We use our social media to educate the public about the importance of intellectual property and how they use it in their everyday lives.”

The office will add the tag to relevant posts throughout the year, but it focuses on featuring the unsettling and strange during October. One of Fucito’s favorites from the #creepyIP library is a picture of a diver in an animatronic octopus.

“It’s one of those things that I actually hope somebody actually did produce it, because it looks so fascinating,” he said.

The hashtag has generated a wide appeal, Fucito said, and it’s been among one of the office’s more successful social media campaigns.

“I think we’ve definitely seen a lot of interaction with this,” he said.

Indeed, North Carolina-based trademark lawyer Ed Timberlake was thrilled when USPTO started posting #creepyIP pictures. An avid Tweeter, Timberlake said he had been hoping that USPTO would use its social media accounts to highlight more of the treasures of its image library.

“As soon as they started doing that, I was just so happy,” Timberlake said. “I just sort of jumped on board.”

One of Timberlake’s recent #creepyIP favorites is a picture of Halloween-cat-shaped dog treats.

Timberlake has long loved trademark art: When he worked at USPTO as a trademark examiner right after law school, Timberlake would keep a running list of interesting trademarks he came across. Now, Timberlake posts images he likes on Twitter and Instagram.

“There’s so much great visual stuff in the record,” he said.

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Applications & Software, Commerce Department, Departments, Ed Timberlake, Paul Fucito, Social Media, Tech, U.S. Patent and Trademark Office
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