The evening started off earlier than typical, with the presentation of the Inventor of the Year Award taking place prior to the dinner because Teresa Heinz Kerry, a long time friend of Dean Kamen, was in attendance to present Kamen with the award. Secretary of State John Kerry was expected, but could not attend. In attendance, however, was Senator Kelly Ayotte (R-NH), who is the Junior Senator from Kamen’s home State of New Hampshire.
Before proceeding, it is worth noting that Senator Ayotte said all the right things about the importance patents play for innovation and pledged to thoughtfully consider patent reform now pending before Congress. Ayotte went so far as to say that she specifically wants to hear from all the stakeholders, including the innovators who were in attendance, before the Senate would take any action on patent reform that was passed by the House last week. Unfortunately, by the time Senator Ayotte was giving these remarks it had already been announced that Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT) has scheduled a hearing in the Senate Judiciary Committee on the Senate companion legislation for Tuesday, December 17, 2013, which suggests that the legislation will be fast-tracked in the Senate without much serious discussion, at least unless someone like Senator Ayotte stands up and uses her considerable powers to halt the legislation unless and until there really is meaningful consideration of the ramifications of the bill if enacted.
The words of Senator Ayotte were well received in the room, although it appears as if patent reform is going to happen and the voices of critics are not likely to be heard or at least thoughtfully considered. Word of fast tracking in the Senate is particularly disheartening the day after Kamen was honored by IPO. Kamen, along with Hall of Fame inventor Gary Michelson and Louis Foreman (inventor and Producer of Everyday Edisons on PBS) did what they could to warn of the consequences of the Innovation Act. See Dean Kamen Warns Innovation Act will Block Next Generation Technologies.
Honoring Dean Kamen
During his brief remarks last night, Kamen began by saying “my first patent started with a ‘3’, now they start with an ‘8’.” Indeed, Kamen has had an extraordinary career as an inventor and one day will be revered in the same way as is Thomas Edison. He already enjoys that type of recognition within the patent and innovation communities, but as generations to come look back on his contributions and the breadth of the invention he will be remembered as a true giant.
Kamen was honored last night by IPO for his invention of the Slingshot™ Water Purification System, which has already begun creating clean drinking water in places like Africa and South America where water is plentiful but water borne diseases are an epidemic.
Slingshot uses water vapor compression technology to create clean drinking water from nearly any source, and a device roughly the size of a small refrigerator can produce 30 liters of clean water an hour using half of the electricity necessary to power a handheld hair dyer.
Kamen has partnered with The Coca-Cola company to bring Slingshot to communities in need, and most of his remarks last night revolved around this partnership. Kamen explained he “needed the largest global logistics footprint possible to take this to the world so I hooked up with Cola-Cola.” Coca-Cola has been an aggressive partner in disseminating Kamen’s clean water technology to the world and has promised that no less than 500 million gallons of clean water will be provided this year with more year after year.
But why is the invention called Slingshot? Kamen explained that the name comes from his interpretation of the David and Goliath story. Kamen explained that he sees the moral of the David and Goliath story being this: “technology is cool.” To him the story is about a little guy with a really big problem who had access to a little technology to help him; namely a slingshot. Kamen went on to explain that the Goliath problem today is water borne disease. “We want this thing to be this century’s slingshot.” Kamen would later say: “I’m hoping this little piece of technology will for a few million people become what the slingshot was for David.”
Coca-Cola loves the name and Kamen was a bit taken back. One day Kamen was sitting around with Coca-Cola executives brainstorming on the right name for the device an in walks Muhtar Kent, who is Chairman, CEO and President of The Coca-Cola Company. Kent asks, “what are you doing.” Kamen explained that they were trying to come up with a name. Kent responded that he loved the name Slingshot and that was the name it would be if Kamen would allow Coca-Cola to use the name. Kamen replied, “if you want to use that name it is yours.” This marks the first time that one of Kamen’s internal names for a project will be what the device is called in the marketplace.
Honoring Doug Henderson
Doug Henderson is a founding partner of the Finnegan Henderson law firm, which is one of the most well recognized and highly regarded firms in the intellectual property space. Henderson retired on March 1, 2013, after a career that spanned 50 years. Henderson was lead counsel in over 90 patent, trademark, unfair competition, and trade secret litigations. As is true with every great litigator he also specialized in the art of dealmaking, being actively involved in dispute resolution, negotiating licensing agreements and settlements, and as an arbitrator in a wide variety of patent, trademark, unfair competition and copyright disputes.
Henderson’s brief remarks at the event were powerful. He called for permanent funding for the IPO Educational Foundation and singled out IPO Executive Director Herb Wamsley as a leader who backed up his actions with his own money, year after year donating to the IPO Educational Foundation. Henderson also used this opportunity to warn about the current climate that threatens innovators by decreasing their rights and making it harder to innovate by making patents harder to obtain and less valuable once they are obtained.
Honoring IP Video Contest Winners
The IP Video Contest is now in its third year, and the videos created were excellent. Indeed, I think those who don’t understand the importance of patents would be well served to watch the videos below and learn a thing or two. Patents do not harm innovation and only the most narrow-minded and intellectually dishonest individuals would ever make such an outrageous claim. These teenagers get it, which is sadly more than can be said for the patent critics and some of our elected leaders in Washington, DC.
13 – 15 Year-old Winners:
16 – 18 Year-old Winners:
19+ Year-old Winner: