Posts in Holiday Posts

Lack of Internet Access Threatens American Innovation

As we celebrate World IP Day this week, the theme of which is “IP and SMEs [small and medium enterprises]”, we must remember that – from its founding – the United States’ economic success has depended on fostering an environment where innovators and entrepreneurs can dream big and achieve success. But that success is now at risk because our nation is lagging behind others in ensuring that everyone, everywhere, can access the most important tool of our time – the internet.

‘Moving Beyond Words’ to Action: Women in IP Share Real-World Tips to Close the Gender Gap

Gloria Steinem wrote Moving Beyond Words: Age, Rage, Sex, Power, Money, Muscles: Breaking Boundaries of Gender in 1994. Steinem was an iconic figure in a movement that began several decades earlier and continues today to close the gender gap and ensure women have equal pay for equal work, among many other issues. In the intellectual property world, this movement is presently playing out in efforts to bring more women into STEM fields, as well as the patent bar and inventorship. There has been much debate about whether these efforts are misguided and how we should proceed, so IPWatchdog reached out to the experts—women at the top of their fields in IP—for their take on the challenges that they’ve faced and ways forward. From personal experiences to practical advice, here is what they had to say.

Celebrating Women’s History Month: USPTO Events Highlight Women in STEM and Business

Last week the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) held the first of five discussions that will take place every Wednesday in March during its Women’s Entrepreneurship Symposium series. While participants discussed the challenges they’ve faced as women in leadership, they also noted that the USPTO has been ahead of the curve when it comes to promoting women into executive positions and shared tips to help more women rise to the top.

From Home Security to VoIP: Honoring Black Women Inventors of the Last Half-Century

Throughout February, we have recognized some of the earliest Black women inventors, beginning with Martha Jones in 1868 and her patent directed to a corn husker, ending with Sarah Boone’s 1892 patent for the Ironing Board. Black women have continued to play an important role in driving innovation during the twentieth century and through today.

Sarah Boone: the ‘Ironing Table’, Perfected

Sarah Boone is believed to be the fifth African-American woman to be awarded a U.S. patent Her invention, U.S. Patent No. 473,653, issued in 1892 and was directed to an improved ironing board. The object of her invention was “to produce a cheap, simple, convenient, and highly effective device, particularly adapted to be used in ironing the sleeves and bodies of ladies’ garments.”

Eighteen Dollars for Her Patent: Ellen Elgin and the Story of the Clothes-Wringer

In August 1888, Ellen Elgin, a black woman housekeeper, invented a clothes wringer which allowed clothing to be washed and dried faster by feeding clothes through two rollers to wring out the clothing, thereby making them easier to hang and dry. Elgin sold her patent to a white person because she felt it would have a better chance at success than if people knew the inventor was a woman of color. Thus, U.S. Patent No. 459,343 lists Cyrenus Wheeler, Jr. as the inventor.

Signed with an ‘X’: Judy Reed, Improved Dough Kneader and Roller

Judy W. Reed, one of the first recorded African American women to receive a U.S. patent (No. 305,474), is known for her invention titled “Dough Kneader and Roller”, which was granted patent protection on September 23, 1884. The invention improved upon existing dough kneaders and rollers and included a box for receiving dough and a crank that causes the dough to be drawn between corrugated rollers, whereby the dough is kneaded and rolled into a continuous sheet or ribbon.

A Cooking Revolution: Mary Jones De Leon

In 1873, Mary Jones De Leon was granted U.S. patent No. 140,253 for her invention titled ”Cooking Apparatus.” De Leon, who resided in Baltimore, Maryland, is believed to be the second black woman to receive a U.S. patent, following Martha Jones in 1868. De Leon’s invention was an apparatus for heating or cooking food by dry heat and steam the same time. Her cooking apparatus was an early precursor to the steam tables now used in food buffets to keep food warm during gatherings.

A Better Way to Husk: Martha Jones, First Black Woman to Receive a U.S. Patent

Martha Jones of Amelia County, Virginia, is believed by many to be the first black woman to receive a United States patent. Her application for an “Improvement to the Corn Husker, Sheller” was granted U.S. patent No. 77,494 in 1868. Jones claimed her invention could husk, shell, cut up, and separate husks from corn in one operation, representing a significant step forward in the automation of agricultural processes.

Washington Insiders Say Farewell to 2020 and Look Ahead to 2021

As we thankfully see 2020 fading into the rear-view mirror and all look forward to a hopefully much better 2021, we want to take a moment to reflect on what the past year brought us and how the stage is set for another very fluid and consequential year for intellectual property policy. In times like these, it is clear that leadership matters more than ever. During some of the most challenging times our country has faced, there were a number of places where we saw strong leadership result in tangible progress. This year has already shown us a dramatic first few days. Beyond the tragic events in the U.S. Capitol, we saw the somewhat unexpected shift of power in the Senate to Democratic control based on the election of both Rev. Raphael Warnock and John Ossoff in Georgia. It is clear that the new Congress and the new Biden Administration will face huge challenges before we approach anything close to “normal” in any sense. That said, when it comes to IP, what can we expect?

Wish Upon a Star: Experts Share Their Wildest IP Dreams for 2021

We have already published industry roundups on the biggest moments in IP for 2020 and predictions and thoughts for 2021. But the longest running industry insider feature on IPWatchdog is our annual “wishes” article. Each year, we invite stakeholders to share their wildest dreams for the coming year. Unlike our Predictions and What Mattered roundups, this series allows our experts to get creative. The responses may have nothing to do with what is likely to happen, but rather gives commenters a chance to explain how 2021 would unfold in their dream scenario. This year, responses remained fairly grounded in reality, with the possible exceptions of hope for clarity on Section 101 law and that Andrei Iancu will remain USPTO Director under future President Biden. Here’s to a new year where all your wishes come true!

What to Watch in 2021: IP Stakeholders Offer Predictions and Thoughts for the New Year

Each December, we ask industry experts to identify what mattered in IP for the previous year, as well as their wildest IP dreams for the new year. In 2017, another year-end series was born—predictions and thoughts for the New Year. Attorneys instinctively eschew predictions—and after a year like 2020 we all have learned the hard way they are rather ill-advised—but these brave souls have gone out on a limb to look into their crystal balls, or simply to give their thoughts on what we should be watching or expecting for the year ahead. Here are our esteemed panelists’ responses.

The Year in Patents: Ten Developments We’ll Remember From 2020

As we end 2020— a year most of us probably wish to forget— it appears that after much litigation it is finally safe to call Joe Biden the President-Elect of the United States. While some may still wish for the improbable, with the Supreme Court not scheduled to hold a hearing on any election issue until after inauguration day, it is impossible to envision anyone other than Biden being sworn in on January 20–although, with everything that has happened so far this year nothing is truly unimaginable anymore. Notwithstanding the uncertainty the future holds, we take this time to look back on the year that was 2020, remembering the biggest patent news stories of the year (in reverse chronological order).

The Top 10 Patents of 2020: From Social Distancing Tech to Facilitating Driverless Vehicles in 5G Networks

As the world bids good riddance to 2020, cursed as it has been by the COVID-19 pandemic and its attendant shutdown of major swathes of the globe’s economy, this list of the Top 10 Patents of 2020 hopefully serves as a reminder that—although the world has missed out on concerts and sporting events aplenty—this year has not been a wasted opportunity for inventors. The world of patent law may be steeped in the tradition of legal precedent but the technologies covered by patents themselves are forward-looking, promising days of driverless vehicle commutes, personalized cancer treatments and fewer awkward moments on Zoom calls. This list does not purport to be an authoritative collection of the most economically valuable technologies protected by patents during 2020, but it offers an honest assessment of technologies that may provide an array of social benefits to consumers long after we ring out the current year.

The Copyright Top Five of 2020

From the Google v. Oracle arguments to Congress’ year-long discussion around reform of the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA), 2020 was a big one for copyright law. A discussion draft of the DMCA reform bill was released on December 22 by Chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on Intellectual Property, Thom Tillis (R-NC), and was meant to solicit comments from stakeholders and other interested parties. Chances the bill will be signed into law anytime soon are slim, but proposed changes such as lowering the specificity with which copyright owners must identify infringing material in certain cases and replacing the notice-and-takedown system in existing law with a “notice-and-staydown” system, would mark a new era in the U.S. copyright regime.