Toy Association Celebrates World IP Day & Youth Innovation, Spotlights Toy Design Program at Otis College

April 26, 2022 | The Toy Association and its members join the global business community today in celebrating World Intellectual Property (IP) Day (April 26). This year’s theme focuses on IP and youth innovation, exploring how young inventors and creators are stepping up to innovation challenges by using their energy, ingenuity, curiosity, and creativity to steer a course toward a better future.

As innovation and creativity continue to be essential to the toy industry, The Toy Association spoke with faculty and students from the Toy Design program at the Otis College of Art and Design in Los Angeles to learn how the next generation of toy designers is being prepared to not only innovate, but also drive positive change in the world.

Jennifer Caveza, chair of the Toy Design program, described how students learn to make “ethical decisions with consideration of social and environmental factors in the design of toys, and learn about the importance of play and the impact they will have on society.”

A sustainability minor within the program prepares students to be changemakers by providing them with knowledge about humanity’s impact on the planet and how to apply science to design better, said Michele Jaquis, director of interdisciplinary studies at Otis College.

“When our students graduate, they enter their professional fields ready to question long-held practices that have had harmful impacts on society and the environment – such as water and material waste, unfair labor practices, and the proximity of pollution to low-income communities of color. They graduate ready to propose and implement new practices that repair that harm,” said Jaquis.

Guest speakers from the industry and trips to factories help round out student learning of sustainable manufacturing processes; recent guests have included Malte Niebelschuetz, founder of Shore Buddies (manufacturer of stuffed animals made from recycled plastic bottles) and Sharon Keilthy, founder and CEO at Jiminy Eco Toys (an eco-specialist toy company that retails and distributes earth-friendly toys across Ireland and the UK).

Otis College has also partnered with Hape Toys, visiting its headquarters and factory in China, where students worked in the “Bamboo Workshop” and learned about utilizing bamboo and other sustainable materials like low VOC adhesives, water-based paint, soy-based pigments, and unbleached kraft fiberboard.

“Hearing about the ways that companies and entrepreneurs are currently working to make toys more sustainable helps give us more of an understanding of how the industry is moving forward in the future,” said Toy Design student Alysa Denise Helms.

As the toy community continues to innovate and make strides toward creating a better future, many Toy Association members are improving the recyclability of their toys, reducing packaging, and incorporating more sustainable materials into their products and packaging. Related to these efforts has been an increase in toys that teach kids how to build a happier and healthier tomorrow through hands-on play that explores everything from sustainability and farm-to-table foods, to endangered species, diversity, equity, and inclusion – and much more.

“Intellectual property is the lifeblood of the toy community, and we take very seriously our collective role in creating a lasting, positive impact on children, helping them build critical skills and an awareness about their community and the larger world they inhabit through meaningful play experiences,” said Steve Pasierb, president & CEO of The Toy Association.

“The Toy Association is proud to celebrate World IP Day once again and support the next generation of toy inventors and designers coming out of Otis College in Los Angeles and the Fashion Institute of Technology (FIT) in New York City, as we work to help all across the toy and play community navigate IP challenges, protect their brands, and combat illicit counterfeits, while driving innovation through education and supporting the creation of toys that help build a better tomorrow.”

In addition to supporting the next generation of toy designers and sustainable initiatives within the toy industry, The Toy Association advocates against counterfeit toys, working closely with federal officials to drive support of IP protection bills like the SHOP SAFE Act and INFORM Consumers Act. The Association is also a part of the Buy Safe America Coalition, which support efforts at all levels of government to protect consumers and communities from the sale of counterfeit and stolen goods. Companies that would like more information, or to get involved in these advocacy efforts, are invited to contact Jennifer Gibbons, senior vice president of government affairs at The Toy Association.