Two centuries of American innovation and 10 million patents

Two centuries of American innovation and 10 million patents
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    I'm Arthur Daemmrich, director of the Lemelson Center for the study of invention and innovation.
    It's my great honor and joy to welcome you to today's program.
    We're housed here in the innovation wing.
    This opened in 2015 as a way to really engage the public, engage our museum visitors in
    understanding how inventors think, more importantly, how they work, the hands on skills, what it takes.
    and also understand the role of invention and innovation for the U.S. economy more broadly.
    Today we have a very special occasion, because we're celebrating 10 million U.S. patents.
    We're going to explore the importance of invention and innovation over the past 200 years, but
    also think and discuss with our amazing panel the view to the future.
    So the framers of our Constitution, in 1789, wrote Congress shall have power to promote
    the progress of science in the useful arts by securing for limited times to authors and
    inventors the exclusive right to their respective writings and discoveries.
    So patents encourage inventors to disclose what they've done.
    It's no longer a world of secrecy of hiding it, of alchemy, of coding what you've done in some secret
    You now disclose it.
    In exchange, you get a monopoly right for a limited time from which you can earn revenue
    and profit.
    That has encouraged an amazing invention and innovation machine in the United States.
    And so we're here today, some 228 years after the very first U.S. patent was issued to Samuel
    Hopkins in 1790, for a new way of making potash and pearl ash, which was used in glass making and gunpowder.
    We're 182 years after senator John Ruggles from Maine received the new patent number
    1 in 1836 for a way of improving the traction of train locomotives.
    The early industrial revolution is about steam power and rail, and here the patents and invention
    are key to that revolution unfolding.
    The patents that have been issued since are an amazing record of the history of invention,
    and illustrate these revolutionary moments in how our economy has transformed.
    Patent number 1,000 in 1838 made railway cars for comfortable.
    We've gone from steam engine gaining traction on the track to actual passenger transport.
    The 10 thousandth patent in 1853 is for paddle wheels for a ship.
    Think about inland transportation, the growing domestic economy of the United States, internal
    trade, and, of course, westward expansion.
    Patent 100,000 in 1870 was for a sunbonnet for a horse.
    So patents run the gamut.
    They're not just industrial.
    Protecting a horse from fainting.
    So then I had to look up patent 100,001, a mechanical seed planter and fertilizer spreader.
    The industrialization of agriculture is beginning by the 1870s.
    Patent 1 million was issued in 1911 for an improvement to vehicle tires.
    Yesterday the USPTO issued the 10 millionth patent to inventor Joe Marron, an employee of Raytheon for a laser
    detection and ranging system that offers a way of maintaining clear optics as in a camera
    while accurately measuring speed and distance.
    So the obvious perhaps obvious application is for driverless cars.
    But I've heard the inventor interviewed on NPR and he mentioned a use in video games.
    You see inventions have multiple uses.
    We're fortunate that inventor is here today.
    Please stand up and everyone join me in applauding him.
    (Applause) ARTHUR DAEMMRICH: And so we're thrilled to
    have you.
    Thank you.
    And with that, I really want to start the panel.
    So I'm going to go over here.
    And with me on stage to my immediate right is Jim West, inventor of the electret microphone and long time employee and inventor at Bell Labs.
    Next to him, Adam Mossoff, a historian and legal scholar at the George Mason University
    and the Center for Protection of Intellectual Property.
    Then we have Drew Hirshfeld, Commissioner for Patents at the USPTO.
    And finally, Susie Armstrong, an inventor and now a sort of policy person at Qualcomm,
    most famous for inventing some of the switching the information technology to connect cell
    phones to the internet.
    They're going to talk more about what they've done and their backgrounds as we go.
    I wanted to ask each of them who's your favorite inventor from history, and why?
    Let's start with Susie.
    SUSIE ARMSTRONG: I think it's not ancient history.
    My favorite inventor is Dr. Irwin Jacobs, seminal in inventing CDMA, the digital technology
    that connected originally connected your cell phone to the internet.
    And part of the reason he's my favorite inventor is, I had the honor of working with
    him in the early days at Qualcomm.
    I had been there ... years.
    (Laughter) SUSIE ARMSTRONG: How did that happen.
    And the other thing I so admire about Dr. Jacobs is that he embodies what I think of
    as the perseverance that it takes to invent something.
    People told him that CDMA wouldn't work.
    He didn't do it alone.
    There were a lot of failures along the way.
    But part of the theme of this panel is that most of these inventions probably aren't
    a-ha moments and Benjamin Franklin with a kite on a string.
    They're the result of a whole lot of hard work and perseverance, and making sure that
    you don't let people tell you it cannot be done.
    JAMES WEST: Yeah.
    When I started looking for places to work, Bell Labs was very appealing to me because
    there were people who looked like me that I wanted to be like when I grew up.
    And so one of the employees, Dr. Lincoln Hawkins, who was my mentor at Bell Labs, is credited
    with some of the most money saving patents ever.
    And what he did was to learn to cure polyethylene so it wouldn't degrade under UV radiation
    from the sun.
    And the reason that that's so important is because lead was a major sheath for cables
    at that time.
    We all know how dangerous lead is.
    And the fact that if all of our cables had lead on them, many of us wouldn't be here
    because of the contamination that's due from the lead.
    He became my mentor and really taught me the ropes.
    And I feel that I was pretty successful, mainly because of what he taught me as my mentor.
    DREW HIRSHFELD: I'll jump in.
    I know Adam is stressing about this as a historian.
    I'll try to talk the rest of the panel so you don't have to answer.
    I'm stressing, also.
    This is really hard.
    So I'm going to apologize in advance.
    I'm going to break the rules.
    I want to talk about a quick story about inspiration.
    I've been at the USPTO for almost 24 years.
    In 2010, I had the opportunity to go to a hall of fame induction ceremony.
    Part of what they do at the ceremony is you see the videos.
    You see these wonderful five minute videos of the inventors who are getting inducted.
    I was so moved at the time.
    I was Chief of Staff for the agency.
    I was so moved at the time by these videos that I thought if I ever get in a position
    to be able to share these for the many, many employees at the USPTO, I'm going to do so.
    So three years ago, I became commissioner.
    And in my first meeting with my managers, I used these videos.
    And it was about 700 people in the room.
    And I brought in a video of one of the inventors.
    I said let me know what you think about this.
    This moves and inspires me.
    And I got such an overwhelming positive response, because learning the great stories of the
    many inventors that we have is just phenomenal.
    And so I had such a great response.
    I continued to do the videos.
    I ended up then transitioning to bringing in inventors to talk.
    So I will give names.
    I don't want to break the rules.
    Two that I brought in, one, Steve Sasson, inventor of the digital camera.
    And he inspires me.
    He would definitely be at the top of my list.
    He inspires me not only for being such an out of the box thinker.
    He worked at a film company, Kodak, when he invented the digital camera.
    Think about that.
    The digital camera did away with film.
    Talk about out of the box.
    You can't get more out of the box than that.
    But in addition, what moves me about him is how much he gives back to the community.
    And he's part of the National Hall of Fame Camp Invention, he works with children.
    And I just find that very inspiring, to be able to witness him very frequently giving
    back to the community.
    The other inventor that I brought in to talk to my managers was Lisa Seacat DeLuca, a master
    inventor at IBM.
    Talk about being inspirational.
    She first of all, she has two sets of twins, which is really not relevant to patents, but
    just an amazing fact in and of itself.
    But she has over I don't know the exact number.
    And they're young kids, too.
    She has over 200 patents.
    I think it's over 250 patents.
    She's IBM most prolific female inventor.
    Probably that makes her, you know, the nation's most prolific female inventor.
    Just an incredible person, always thinking about what that next step forward is and just
    an incredible story in and of herself.
    So those would be two people that jump out at me.
    ARTHUR DAEMMRICH: Tell us your favorite inventor from the 19th century.
    ADAM MOSSOFF: It's such an unfair question.
    You study one inventor, so amazing, my favorite, Charles Goodyear.
    I have one set of twins.
    It's highly relevant to the fact that she's so inventive.
    One of my favorites is Hattie Lamar.
    A lot of people know of her as the glamorous movie star from 1930s and '40s.
    And yet she invented signal hopping technology that was fundamental for the guidance in World
    War II of our torpedoes and of other weapons that was key at that time.
    But actually, far more important than that, it's the foundational technology upon which
    Irwin Jacobs developed CDMA.
    She is at root one of the very important inventors of what makes all of our digital communication
    systems work today our laptops, our smartphones, all of our smart devices.
    Her technology is built upon by Irwin Jacobs and used in all of our devices that communicate
    with each other.
    And one of the reasons why I really like her as an inventor is she represents, I think,
    kind of the awesome aspect of what makes the American innovation system work.
    It's kind of an out of the box, unexpected source of innovation, which is what a lot
    of inventors are.
    They're not the people you would normally think of as the place where the innovation
    will come from.
    It was important for winning World War II and for the civilian technologies that we
    developed 40 years later that made our lives today a veritable miracle.
    SUSIE ARMSTRONG: I thought about naming Hattie, but I'm not old enough to have worked with
    (Laughter) ARTHUR DAEMMRICH: Jim, I wanted to turn to
    you next and ask you, kind of walk us through the experience of being an inventor, the idea,
    building the prototype, testing it, what failed, what succeeded?
    JAMES WEST: Yeah.
    Sometimes nothing, but those are the games we play.
    Life for me is always running around the rim of a glass.
    Sometimes I fall in, sometimes I fall out.
    And let's not worry about which is the right way to fall, just get off the edge.
    The moral of that short story is that curiosity is the mother of all invention.
    And curiosity started with me very early.
    I took my grandfather's pocket watch apart and got into big trouble over it.
    105 parts in it, but I couldn't get it back together, and that caused a big deal of trouble.
    So and this is a message to all you families out there with young kids.
    Let them experiment.
    Let them mess around.
    Let them play, because they're going to get in trouble like I did, but look, it paid off.
    (Laughter) JAMES WEST: So the process of inventing, of
    finding something new, is usually a challenge to nature, because nature is the big inventor
    in the whole universe.
    And it is not always pleasant, because things don't work the way you think they work.
    The work the way nature wants them to work, okay?
    And so you have to overcome the hurdles to understand the language of nature, to understand
    what nature is telling you when things don't work.
    Usually right now, and most of you there's a fixed solution to a problem.
    Well, if you're inventing something, it doesn't exist.
    So there are no guidelines to say whether it's a good invention or whether it isn't.
    When my colleague and I figured out how to make the microphone, using one right now and
    it's in all cell phones, we it was not clear to either of us that we had an invention,
    because who needs another microphone?
    Well, it turns out to be a very, very important microphone because your cell phone would not
    work with any other microphone, unfortunately.
    And the reason for that is that coding is used in cell phones so that many, many people
    can use the system.
    And when if there are any nonlinearities at all in the microphone, this gets amplified
    in the cross talk from the compression algorithm that they have.
    And I think I'm getting close to the end here, and answering your question.
    The only thing that's missing here is the euphoric feeling when you know you've got
    something, when you know that you have found something that no one else has found.
    So it makes you a very unique person.
    And that's a real great feeling when you get to that position.
    ARTHUR DAEMMRICH: Susie, how about from your experience?
    Tell us the paths not taken, the failures, or that euphoric moment, if you've had it.
    Made all the better by all the torture that happened before.
    So, you know, I am a computer scientist by education, by career.
    And so I didn't start out to be an inventor, if you will.
    I joined Qualcomm 24 years ago.
    (Chuckling) And in late 1996 I was working on our base station software.
    And I made an observation.
    It wasn't a brilliant observation, but with a team of people.
    My background before Qualcomm was in the computer industry.
    I had worked for Xerox.
    I'm a retreaded Ethernet programmer.
    So my observation was this voice link, this CDMA voice link is just bits.
    It's just ones and zeros, why don't we send data over it.
    There were a couple other people in the company who were really understood the promise of
    being able to do wireless data.
    And so out of that came I invented a very simple way to do what we call mobile originated
    packet data calls.
    And that resulted, in early '97 I'm very proud of this with the first web surfing on this
    phone, on this display, and at the trade show, CTIA '97.
    And it was such a big hit, even though, you know, you will all laugh at this little display.
    It was such a powerful demo that the infrastructure makers and the phone makers, and Qualcomm
    really by the next year, our CEO was actually surfing the web from Maui in a phone that
    we commercialized.
    And so one thing I want to say about that process is it's never a single person.
    You build on the work of people who have gone before you.
    You have to have creativity.
    And you also and curiosity.
    And you also have to have the ability to think out of the box, the ability to make these
    observations, which has served me well in my career as well as in inventions, and the
    ability to make these observations that maybe I can do something different with this stream
    of 1s and 0s.
    And perhaps more importantly than surfing the web on this little display itself is that
    that really gave rise to the industry's interest and Qualcomm's interest in we surfed at 13kilobits,
    the speed of the voice encoder.
    Now you can download a video over gigabit LTE at gigabit rates.
    And so it was these kinds of inventions that really spur others on to build on that platform.
    And so if you look at 3G, 4G, and 5G, it's all about how fast, how efficiently, with
    great response time you can actually send data.
    And that euphoric moment, there is nothing like that euphoric moment, because the lows
    are really low, too.
    (Laughter) SUSIE ARMSTRONG: But when we got the data
    demo working, it was like November of '96.
    The first thing you do in a smallish company is you send the first call, or you send the
    you know, the first data message to your CEO.
    And so we went it to Irwin Jacobs, there were about four of us.
    And he says great, congratulations!
    Can you demo it for the analysts and shareholders on Tuesday?
    So we all had to go out and buy a suit.
    We all had a weekend to get the demo working, and it worked, and it was one of those euphoric
    ARTHUR DAEMMRICH: What was that first message?
    Was it Watson, come here, I need you?
    SUSIE ARMSTRONG: No, I think it was hi, Dr. Jacobs.
    This is coming to you over a CDMA link.
    ARTHUR DAEMMRICH: Adam, I want to ask you big picture, you may find some more specifics.
    But, thinking back over the 200 years, what has been the role of the patent system to
    the innovation engine, to the American economy?
    ADAM MOSSOFF: Right.
    It's a great question.
    And, you know, patents are not the be all and end all, but they are a key opponent of
    a thriving, growing innovation economy and a flourishing society.
    Abram Lincoln, famous president, few people know he was an inventor, the only the U.S.
    president to receive a patent.
    He identified the U.S. patent system as one of the three great human achievements in history.
    He famously said of it that, you know, it provided the fuel of interest to the fire
    of genius.
    And that's what you see throughout history.
    And you hear the stories from Susie, Jim, and others about how, you know, they invent,
    And then the patent system doesn't inspire them, per se, to invent.
    But the patent system then provides the means to take those cool ideas you came up with
    in the lab, and at the university, and figure out how to get those into the real world,
    into the hand of consumers, right?
    Susie, the message you sent to Dr. Jacobs was not sent in the same way on the same device
    that a person, a consumer on the street would have on their phone.
    Secondary innovation has to go into that by business persons, follow on inventors.
    That's what the U.S. patent system has provided.
    You see consistently when you read the stories of the inventor of the telegraph and Morse
    code today is the anniversary of Samuel Morris receiving his patent on the invention of the
    telegraph and Morse code, which he invented.
    And last Friday was the anniversary of Charles Goodyear receiving his patent on his process
    for making rubber, a stable and effective commodity to be used by businesses and consumers.
    That their patents were the means by which they got their inventions out of their homes
    and literally their garages, into the hands of consumers through the business persons.
    And that's really been a key part of how the American patent system has served such a fundamental
    role in our innovation economy for the past 200 years.
    ARTHUR DAEMMRICH: Drew, tell us from your perspective, what has stayed constant, what
    has changed about the patent office and the role of the patent commissioner?
    DREW HIRSHFELD: All right.
    So, let me start with the role of the commissioner, I guess.
    I think my role is primarily to make sure that the examiners are ready to do their job.
    So it's an examiner's job to get a patent application in.
    It's their job to know the technology, which can be challenging, because obviously with
    inventions, it's new technology.
    To know the technology and the laws that apply and be able to issue those patents and say,
    you know, this is deserving of a patent, and to not issue ones that aren't deserving.
    They're the gatekeepers, so to speak, of the system.
    I think that is without a doubt, primarily my role.
    And I believe that's been the role of every commissioner or people at the office dating
    back to when examination really started.
    So that principle hasn't changed at all.
    I think what's changed the most is the size of the office.
    And that says a lot about the inventiveness of America.
    So we get about 600,000 patent applications filed in a year, which is a staggering number.
    To be able to go through those applications we have over 8,000 patent examiners, all separated
    into different technologies.
    So you can have somebody, you know, looking at screw threads and that's all they do.
    Or you can have somebody looking in biotechnology.
    And they're very hardworking, a very challenging job.
    But that is the bulk of what they do.
    When we look back, just 50 years ago and this gets to your question about change just 50
    years ago, the number of examiners was different by a factor of ten.
    So we had about 800 examiners just 50 years ago.
    And that's stating more about the inventiveness of society and inventors building on other
    inventions than it is more about the office.
    ARTHUR DAEMMRICH: So that's interesting.
    I understand you yourself came up through the ranks as a patent examiner.
    What would you say to someone who's in the audience who's thinking, huh, okay, I'm not
    going to become an inventor, but I might want to become a patent examiner?
    What makes a good patent examiner, what do you say to excite people about it?
    DREW HIRSHFELD: Thanks, that's a great question.
    I actually never envisioned that I was going to be either a patent lawyer or a patent examiner.
    When I eventually decided to go to law school, I had two examiners in a law school class
    with me.
    And it was a patent prosecution class.
    I remember being so impressed at how much they knew about the patent system that I thought
    I want to go to the office and learn like an examiner learns.
    That was what brought me to the office.
    Never did I imagine 24 years later I'd be sitting here, but it's a fabulous job.
    It is extremely challenging and extremely gratifying.
    You get to come to work every day and make your decisions.
    This is what the allure for me was back in the mid '90s.
    You get to make the decision based on what you think is the right thing to do.
    I know that sounds simple, but an examiner evaluation the invention, understands it,
    knows the laws, and says is this deserving or not.
    If it's not, maybe there's a way that they can help the applicant so they can get a patent.
    It can be very gratifying to help the process move forward so these wonderful inventors
    like I have up on the podium with me, and number 10 million sitting in the front row,
    they can be extremely gratifying to be able to help a product get to market, you know,
    get the patent from the work that you put in behind that.
    And it's just really wonderful.
    When both of you talked about your euphoric moment, examiners sit around.
    I've done this myself.
    We talk about hey, I just saw something.
    I just saw one of my inventions in a trade magazine, or I was walking in a store and
    you saw it there.
    That's a great feeling.
    We're not the inventors, but if we help the process, that feels great.
    ARTHUR DAEMMRICH: Very cool.
    Susie, if I look back in the 19th century, it was an era of independent, sole inventors,
    Over the course of the 20th century, industrial R&D, research and development grew.
    Companies put a lot of money and science shifted where it took larger labs, larger groups of
    people in many cases.
    I just wonder from your perspective, what's been the role of corporate R&D in our innovation
    SUSIE ARMSTRONG: You cannot underestimate the role of corporations in the innovation
    These technologies and I can only speak for the tech area and a few of the related areas.
    But these technologies are so complex that it's not again, it's not like Benjamin Franklin
    can fly a kite in a thunderstorm.
    It's not one single person that can come up with some a ha moment.
    And it takes tremendous investment on the part of a corporation and an individual.
    And typically individuals don't have that kind of investment.
    So it takes tremendous investment by a corporation like Qualcomm, who is looking for being around
    in the long term and is willing to invest in people like me, and engineers, and researchers,
    and prototypers to be able to engineer and come up with these kinds of inventions so
    that they can reap the financial benefits in the long term.
    And far from guaranteed.
    We have a lot of lows personally.
    Sometimes we say why did we ever start this project?
    And also for the company, there's a huge amount of risk in taking on some of these innovative
    And so I think corporations, especially those that are looking at the long term, serve an
    incredibly important function in, you know, American innovation by investing in people
    who are going to invent and then also by partnering with the Patent Office to protection those
    Whether you're an individual or a corporation, and especially if you're a corporation, if
    you don't think that your invention is that you patented, that you are licensing to get
    it out into the world, if you don't think that that can be protected by a patent, then
    there is not much incentive for you to spend all that money to actually, you know, hire
    the researchers, hire engineers, and go down these very risky paths.
    So I don't know what the statistics are, but I wouldn't be surprised if many, many of the
    you know, very valuable innovation patents actually come through corporations.
    And people think of corporations as these big, bad places.
    But corporations are me, right?
    And corporations are nothing but a set of people trying to push the technology and the
    world forward.
    ARTHUR DAEMMRICH: So, Jim, you worked for many years at a place that really is beginning
    to have almost mythical status among historians of science and technology.
    JAMES WEST: Almost?
    ARTHUR DAEMMRICH: This is Bell Labs, which was famous for really, kind of, unfettered
    discovery, but then perhaps towards the end, wasn't as good at what Susie was pointing
    to, generating commercial products.
    I wanted to ask you about your shift into Johns Hopkins, looking across universities,
    corporations, what are similarities and differences in them as places to do your research and
    JAMES WEST: There are probably a hundred answers to those questions, but let me see if I can
    narrow it down to a precious few.
    Bell Laboratories was truly a mythical place because of the governing rules around it.
    I couldn't lock my door, right.
    It had to always be open.
    That means if somebody in chemistry wanted to know something that I knew, we were free
    to exchange.
    And so the mixture as Susan pointed out, collaborative research, collaborative efforts are the key
    and have been for a very long time.
    I chose Johns Hopkins because it looked more like Bell Labs than any other university that
    I interviewed.
    And it looked more like Bell Labs because it's main emphasis Is on medical delivery
    systems, on cures, on how technology can aid in healthcare.
    I had a meeting with Mr. Peterson, President of Johns Hopkins at that time, ranked number
    3 or 4 in the world.
    He credits technology for the position that Johns Hopkins Hospital has.
    JAMES WEST: And this leads right up to one of my recent projects.
    Pneumonia is the biggest cause of infant mortality in the world.
    2 million kids lose their lives every year due to pneumonia.
    And it's not it's a curable disease.
    The problem is in detecting it.
    We don't have enough physicians to go around to monitor the lung condition of infants.
    And so one it's not an invention yet, because it's still in the patent office under review.
    (Laughter) JAMES WEST: But we're hopeful.
    But what we can do is detect pneumonia in lungs in ten seconds, okay?
    And it's on a very inexpensive device, which means that it can go throughout the world.
    The third world is very interested in this technology, and we hope that it will indeed
    save some lives.
    So the transition from industry to university was not always as smooth as I had hoped it
    At Bell Laboratories, I could, at lunch, turn the napkin or the place plate over and two
    or three of us would sit around and work for a couple of hours, and say I needed a hundred
    thousand dollars to do the experiment.
    The check was on my desk.
    Right now I spend half my time looking for funds to pay my students.
    (Laughter) JAMES WEST: And this is very uncomfortable.
    And the system that we have to really address in this system, and learn how to do it better,
    because this is clearly not one of our best working areas.
    ARTHUR DAEMMRICH: Drew, do you have a comment on, kind of, different roles and whether it
    fits together, or points of tension among, you know, the university based invention,
    the corporate?
    We still have independent inventors in America.
    And of course there's a huge swath and in fact, patent 10 million reflects this, of
    kind of government or military based R&D that in today's era, very nicely, because they're
    motivated to get patents, becomes public.
    It's no longer as secretive in that way.
    From my perspective, I don't see that there's a, you know, stronger path from all those
    options you mentioned.
    We do have many independent inventors, and independent inventors lead to startup businesses
    and can make extremely significant changes to society, and helping society.
    So from our perspective, we see inventions from all areas.
    And we actually have recently started a group of examiners to focus solely on inventors
    who don't have attorneys as their representatives.
    So they're going through the patent process by themself.
    Where they don't have the training to write an application, we help them along so that
    we can foster their innovation.
    So I believe that there's innovation coming from all sectors.
    That's what makes America great.
    I will say I've been very fortunate to have many interactions with universities.
    And while I completely agree that more work needs to be done, I think universities are
    starting to get that.
    And they're starting to really have their engineers, one, work with their business schools,
    two, be more familiar with inventions, and what will happen in the future.
    So I think we're in a great place and I think there's always improvement to be made, but
    I believe there is inventions coming from all sectors.
    And that's what makes us great.
    ARTHUR DAEMMRICH: So, Adam, patent number 1 million was issued in 1911.
    Patent 5 million in 1991.
    So that's 80 years.
    So it takes 20 years per million patents.
    The 9 millionth patent, 2015, six years per million patents.
    Now three years later, we're at patent 10 million.
    What's behind that acceleration?
    Is it just population growth?
    ADAM MOSSOFF: Lots of factors.
    One of them is yes, more inventors.
    But the you know, we are increasingly an innovation driven economy.
    And we, in fact, had two massive revolutions in the last half of the 20th century that
    were primarily driven by the patent system.
    And that was the digital revolution behind our computers, the integrated circuit, the
    transistor in the 1940s, innovations that were patented, heavily invested in, longtime
    horizons, and then ultimately, you know, put into place by follow on innovators and developers.
    And then the digital technology was combined, of course, with the pharmaceutical revolution
    of the earlier 20th century, the biotech revolution was produced, the combination.
    We get such amazing innovations as the stethoscope that can detect pneumonia.
    This is innovation being secured and driven by our patent system, primarily.
    Of course you can protect things through trade secrecy, but a lot of these innovation require,
    kind of, the secure property rights that patents provide as the basis for contracts and licensing
    arrangements, and all of the things that you need to get things into the hands of consumers,
    especially deployed around the world and into the developing world.
    And I think that those two mass revolutions that kind of came together which really made
    our life a veritable miracle today.
    As an historian, you appreciate how much we take for granted today.
    You know.
    Things that we do now that were thought of as impossible, or, you know, pure science
    fiction 15 or 20 years ago, right?
    When I first met Susie, I had Wayne World moment, she worked on the Ethernet, that's
    so amazing.
    And, you know, if you had said to us in the 1980s that you would have computers in our
    pockets that we call phones that are more powerful than the computers on our desks,
    people would look at you like you're insane.
    DREW HIRSHFELD: And space shuttles.
    ADAM MOSSOFF: I think this is part and parcel of what's kind of led to this explosion in
    And there's a general correlation between, you know, patenting, you know, the amount
    of patents that are coming out and the growth and innovation economy.
    And that's a correlation that holds fairly constant historically and across countries.
    ARTHUR DAEMMRICH: So when we look historically at inventors, historians love to find the
    quotes are the inventor is most frustrated with the Patent Office and there's some legendary
    quotes from people who ultimately became incredibly successful inventors.
    There's, you know, an amazing story about Bell and inventing and patenting the telephone
    and being so concerned about his ideas being stolen that he in fact sealed one of the telephones
    in a tin box, which he then deposited at the Smithsonian.
    He in fact left two to be opened in case of contested litigation in court.
    There was challenges.
    One of them was opened.
    We still have the other one unopened because we're the Smithsonian.
    But I want to ask you about the experience as an inventor dealing with the Patent Office
    or patent attorneys.
    What was that like?
    How did it change how you do work?
    Did it give you a clue in the future here's how I should change my research?
    What's that relationship like as an inventor?
    JAMES WEST: I had to learn a whole new language with my first patent.
    Processes that you do something, and then you write it up, and then for scientists,
    the next step is to publish.
    But generally, companies don't allow you to publish until the intellectual property is
    in place.
    And so my first patent, I wrote what I thought was a very nice, clear memo.
    When I got the patent back, I couldn't understand anything that was there without a dictionary,
    because there were words that I had never seen, never heard before.
    (Laughter) JAMES WEST: So that was a little bit frustrating,
    a little bit aggravating.
    But things have changed, fortunately, where we both speak the same language.
    And that's really important, because then translations are unnecessary.
    The if I have time to tell one little story.
    One of my early patents was challenged.
    And so the attorney at Bell Labs says we have to straighten that patent attorney out.
    Those old geezers down there don't know what they're doing, it's the modern world.
    He prepared me.
    He said, you've got to be forceful.
    You've got to fight for what you want.
    So we came down to the patent office and went in to see the patent examiner, who turned
    out to be a 25 year old female.
    So it was easy from that point on, from my standpoint.
    We didn't have to fight so hard.
    She was very reasonable and understood what we were saying.
    But the my patent attorney had a totally different view of the patent department than I did.
    But I think he got caught in the transition, too.
    SUSIE ARMSTRONG: So I'm really happy, Jim, that you said you didn't understand what your
    first patent had turned into, because I looked back recently at one of mine and I thought,
    did I write that?
    Maybe it's just the age.
    But I think my experience is a little bit different because I'm an engineer, not a scientist.
    The goal, as you're writing patents, the goal is to commercialize and to get the product
    out the door.
    And so there's always that pressure.
    And also, inside of a company like Qualcomm, you typically have a group of patent attorneys
    who have been trained as engineers.
    And so they help you translate your engineering write up into, sort of, the legal patent write
    up that will eventually go be filed.
    But even that process is tough and a little mysterious, because, you know, as you're writing
    this patent and then also, as you file for it, and you're not sure it's going to get
    granted, we like in my experience, I never actually interacted directly with the patent
    And so in my mind, they were also they were a combination of these scary people up in
    an ivory tower with halos on.
    And you don't look like that at all.
    Thank you.
    (Laughter) SUSIE ARMSTRONG: But it's also it's hard when
    people, especially are starting out writing patents.
    I'm really happy to hear that the actual Patent Office has now classes for individual inventors
    who don't have the benefit of a Qualcomm department behind them, because as an engineer or a scientist,
    especially when you're just starting out writing patents, this is your baby.
    You put tons of hours, and blood, and sweat, you and your colleagues have labored over
    this thing.
    And then, you know, the patent examiners are going to tear it all to pieces.
    And it's really kind of an interesting look at, sort of, your own ownership of that invention.
    But it's really good, because it forces you to focus on well, it's not just your baby.
    You know, can you make this applicable to a broad audience.
    DREW HIRSHFELD: If you want to try something really challenging, right, just pick anything,
    It could be the chair you're sitting on.
    Pick some device and get with three people and try to describe it in words, right?
    And you'll see how differently you all do this.
    And that is a challenge.
    And so at the heart of the system, when an attorney or an agent is writing up a patent
    application, their job is to put this invention and often a very, very complex invention into
    And then it's our job at the office to make sure that there's parts of the application
    called the claims that they describe the invention.
    That's what's going to be the protection of that patent.
    So if those words are not accurately describing the invention, both in terms of the scope
    in other words, what is entitled to invention there's a problem.
    If the examiner issues a patent that is much more narrow than the inventor was entitled
    to, that's a problem.
    The inventor is not getting their whole benefit of their invention.
    By the same token, if they issue something that's too broad then the applicant might
    overuse it or it might get challenged and might not withstand the legal challenge.
    There's this Goldilocks portion that they have to hit in the middle and just get it
    And that's what the challenge is.
    I do believe that you know, I heard you talking about not meeting examiners.
    You hear that all the time.
    What we try to foster at the Patent and Trademark Office is sitting down with the examiner,
    And I always joke.
    And I say with property, it's location, location, location.
    With a patent application it's interview, interview, interview.
    Sit down, get on the same page, get together and have those discussions.
    And what I often see is an examiner and an attorney are just talking past each other.
    And when they can sit down together they can usually work something out.
    And when they understand each other, there's always a better course of action that moves
    And I'm not going to say it's easy to go through the patent process.
    It's definitely challenging.
    Anything challenging is going to be you know, anything worthwhile is going to be challenging.
    And I think it can be done in a way of working together.
    And that's the goal.
    >> ARTHUR DAEMMRICH: Adam, when you look at the history that you've studied in considerable
    depth, do you have an example of an inventor who went from oh my God dealing with this
    is dealing with not the halo, but the horns, to the halo?
    ADAM MOSSOFF: Well, a good example of that although it's after the patent issued is Alexander
    Graham Bell, inventor of the telephone.
    He actually became very upset with his patent attorney during the litigation, during when
    his patents were challenged.
    All great patents are eventually challenged.
    All great new technologies eventually end up in court because that's the way we resolve
    Oftentimes there are questions about who was the first inventor, but even there's honest
    disputes between people trying to create competing products.
    The way we resolve disputes is through courts.
    And he had a certain idea about what his invention was, represented in one of the claims.
    And his attorney said no, no, no, actually, it was called claim five, that's what we're
    going to win on.
    And he completely disagreed with his attorney.
    He wrote all of his letters which are shared by skeptics, he's destroying by invention,
    it doesn't reflect it.
    But his attorneys were correct and won the case.
    It went all the way to the Supreme Court, and secured his rights to his invention on
    his attorney's arguments.
    And he came to see that his attorneys were right.
    So they can work together.
    And when you talk to patent attorneys, they're called patent prosecutors.
    Those are the lawyers who help apply for patents, who write the patent applications.
    They play an important role in defining what is that innovation that you've created and
    transmitting that innovation into language that not just other attorneys understand,
    but also other people throughout the world can understand and read and benefit from.
    There's this kind of public perception that inventors are lone geniuses who wake up in
    the middle of the night with the flash of an idea.
    Sometimes that's true.
    But the inventions we have in our hands, the products that get to market have actually
    been through a quite disciplined process of building prototypes, of testing, of refining,
    of securing intellectual property, of developing a market.
    And so it's easy to kind of mix the two.
    And there is a kind of interesting question about the inventors who succeed most at continuing
    to get patents, how their invention style is changing over time.
    ARTHUR DAEMMRICH: I wanted to ask a question.
    And we are going to open up for general discussion, so people can begin to think about what they
    might want to ask.
    There's been a whole spate of studies recently, from historians and economists, kind of looking
    at some of the challenges faced by women and minority inventors especially that they tend
    to get fewer patents.
    They're often under resourced as inventors.
    They're not getting how do we encourage a broader populous to invent?
    How do we close the gap?
    JAMES WEST: Let's look at one thing a little bit ahead of that question and why it is important.
    It turns out that many studies have been made that have shown that diverse work groups in
    technology are the most productive.
    This is underrepresented minorities and especially women infused into the process.
    So I just wanted to set the stage.
    I was born in Virginia many, many years ago.
    And I went to segregated schools and the whole thing.
    My initial university experience was at a black HBCU.
    And this world is not necessarily open to the public.
    My father was very upset with me when I switched from premed to physics.
    And the reason he was upset was because the only professions that black people had at
    that time were preacher, teacher, lawyer, doctor.
    And if you weren't one of those, you weren't a professional.
    Well, things have changed.
    But there is a lag here.
    And this lag is one that worries me very much.
    And an area that I'm also trying to contribute to making things a little bit better.
    We are often counseled away from technology.
    We are often counseled away from mathematics, which is the foundation for all science.
    And once we get in our minds and I've heard many parents and challenged many parents who
    sit around and say well, my son or daughter can't do math, but I couldn't, either.
    That's not a good message to be sending to your children.
    The message should be you can do it, because you can.
    And that's one thing that we have to overcome.
    This is not only true for underrepresented minorities, it's especially true for women.
    Your place is not in the laboratory, you know, has been the mantra of the world for a long,
    long time.
    So the ladder is steep to get started.
    We are making progress.
    But unfortunately, not fast enough.
    And the real crux of the problem is that if you lump all of the underrepresented minorities
    you're talking about maybe 25% of the population of this country.
    But that same population represents only 5% of the STEM workforce.
    Women are 51% of the population of this country, but less than 15% of the STEM workforce.
    Well, until we get people into this career, until we encourage them that this is the career,
    this is the place to go, we're going to always lag unless we get those numbers up, because
    everybody can't be an inventor.
    But people can support inventions.
    And this is as important I mean, the people that worked for me at Bell Labs and my students
    now are my heart.
    They're the ones that make me.
    And it's really, very important to bring this new group on board.
    I have three underrepresented minority graduate students in my group now.
    So I'm doing my part.
    I know others who are trying.
    But you have to do when I say you, I'm talking about the women and the underrepresented minorities
    in this audience.
    You have to do your job, too, because you have to condition your kids to understand
    that you can make a living in technology, that this is an area that you can go to school
    for four years and come out and earn a real, decent salary.
    And believe me, in this country, there are not too many other areas that you can do that.
    ARTHUR DAEMMRICH: Susie, I know you do a fair bit of mentoring and work with young people.
    SUSIE ARMSTRONG: Yeah, and geez, I'm not sure I can match Jim's comments here.
    (Chuckling) But I just have to agree.
    I think culturally, whether you're female or you're a minority, historically you've
    been discouraged from going into these kinds of STEM fields, if you will engineering, and
    math, and technology, and science.
    And I think there is big cultural biases still in place.
    But on the positive side, I see tremendous programs that are in place for encouraging
    kids to go into these kinds of fields.
    Obviously the maker movement, I love the maker movement because I think it harnesses kids
    and Adam's and my natural tendencies to, you know, create fun things.
    And they don't always have to be just fun.
    A lot of them end up, I think, being inventions and going into products.
    The hall of fame, I hope I'm not stealing your thunder, but the Patent and Trade Office
    has a hall of fame.
    They have phenomenal programs called Camp Invention for kids.
    And then Qualcomm I have all the props.
    So Qualcomm has a program we call the Thinkabit Lab, and it's targeted towards underrepresented
    middle schoolers in the STEM area.
    And it's really trying to show these kids it's free.
    It's noncompetitive, because if you put I love a good competition.
    You start to make kids compete before they're ready and you can just watch them shut down.
    And so it aims to inspire kids to be the future inventors and to get them to look at careers
    any careers not even just being an inventor, but any careers in the stem area.
    So this is and we teach them a little bit about IOT.
    And I had a professor, you know, observe the program one time and came out and said to
    me, I actually know what IOT means now.
    (Laughter) SUSIE ARMSTRONG: So we teach them a little
    bit about IOT and then we turn them loose on the craft wall.
    And this is an example of what some of these kids come up with.
    It's not a kit.
    There's not a prescribed outcome.
    It's not a competition.
    And so these kids this is two 6th graders, I believe they were girls.
    And they made an invention of their own need.
    And this is a machine that dresses you in bed.
    (Laughter) SUSIE ARMSTRONG: You know.
    They say these are the sensors that sense in the pile of clothes in your room which
    are dirty and which are clean.
    They dress you in bed.
    And then they program a little board themselves and it turns the item with a makeup pad on
    And this puts your makeup on in bed.
    It's really fun.
    But the point, there are phenomenal programs out there for kids and adults that if we don't
    take advantage of them, then people will continue to think oh, that's not a field for me.
    I had one we participate also in First Robotics.
    And I had one of the coaches say to me that the biggest reason girls and minorities drop
    out of First programs is not financial, it's not time, it's because the parents don't understand
    The parent don't give the positive feedback at home.
    I think as Jim mentioned earlier in the program, encourage your kids to be creative and to
    make things.
    And they aren't necessarily going to become the next, you know, Thomas Edison or Jim,
    but they will have some very, very good job opportunities and very interesting job opportunities
    in these kinds of fields.
    ARTHUR DAEMMRICH: So Drew, the inventor's Hall of Fame was mentioned, I know USPTO has
    other programs to stimulate the next generation.
    First of all, I thank both of you for your remarks and agree with the idea that it's
    all about education.
    And I mentioned before that my main role as commissioner for patents is to make sure the
    examiners are ready to do their job of examination.
    A very important role we have at USPTO is to educate and to foster outreach.
    And so we have an Office of Education, an Office of Innovation Development, all geared
    towards reaching out to people to educate them.
    There are many programs with children, many programs with women.
    We have a women's symposium that we put on.
    And I will also just say we need more role models, right?
    The more role models we can have, the better.
    As mentioned a number of times, the national inventors Hall of Fame, we partner with them.
    They do a wonderful job of putting out these great inventors as role models and saying
    these are the superstars.
    These are the superheros for the kids to emulate.
    And I think this is a wonderful way to go.
    I will say at USPTO I'm proud that over 40% of the executives in my area are women.
    And I think that will help set role models and set us on a better course for a future.
    It certainly is something we need to continue to be focused on.
    I would be remiss when you showed your prop, if I can take two seconds to talk about what
    I believe.
    I'm sorry, I believe it was a young girl who invented this at an event I'm at.
    I'm not 100% sure.
    Definitely a young kid.
    She invented a collar to control her dog better, because her dog wasn't listening to her.
    So she could press a button remotely that would put a bacon smell to the left or a smell
    to the right.
    Very important.
    (Laughter) DREW HIRSHFELD: That's just wonderful.
    I wanted to get one myself for me.
    (Laughter) ADAM MOSSOFF: I just want to add a historical
    There are very profoundly fundamental questions at the social, cultural, and political level
    that we have to grapple with as a society, and all societies must grapple with.
    It's not the job of the patent system to address that.
    But the patent system can help facilitate that by being what the United States patent
    system has been, which is economic historians refer to it as the democratization of invention.
    It's accessible and open to all individuals.
    Early on the court said, in your opening remarks you quoted from the Constitution which says
    anyone can be an inventor.
    It doesn't matter where you're from, your socioeconomic class, your race, your gender,
    your nationality.
    If you invent, you get a patent.
    And so the U.S. patent system was open to everyone from a very early stage.
    And historians have found that there were African Americans who were slaves who invented
    and the court said the patent has to go to the slave because the slave is the inventor.
    And so this was, you know, an important small, but nonetheless important, kind of, leverage
    point to continue to challenge the prejudices and biases that existed in our culture at
    that time in society generally and up through today.
    And in fact, Frederick Douglas liked to talk about patents a lot.
    He talked about patents surprisingly a lot.
    And one of the reasons why he did was because, you know, he was challenging the bias and
    prejudice that African Americans weren't inventive, that they weren't creative.
    And he was constantly identifying and pointing to the hundreds and hundreds of patents that
    had already issued to African Americans as counterexamples to that.
    You know.
    And so for instance, last Thursday is the anniversary of George Washington Carver, famous
    African American chemist who did work on peanuts.
    Many people know of him for that.
    He got a patent in 1927, on another process of making paints and stains from clay.
    And so, you know, having a democratized invention system with the patents that are available
    to all individuals, I think is a key component to back up the very important social, cultural,
    and political points that we always have to make and ensure.
    JAMES WEST: I may have my numbers a little wrong here, but I know that there are at least
    30 underrepresented minority and 30 women inductees into the National Inventors Hall
    of Fame.
    If you want to find a role model, if you want to find out what women and underrepresented
    minorities have contributed to the improvement of the quality of life, I suggest to go to
    the National Inventors Hall of Fame and look them up.
    ARTHUR DAEMMRICH: So I'm going to ask one more question, and then we'll open up to some
    questions from the floor.
    So, you know, looking across that history, looking to the future, is there something
    unique about America as a place of invention?
    Do we continue that?
    What's your take on the future?
    What else is needed, if anything, to support us as a place of invention, or are we kind
    of on auto pilot from here?
    >> DREW HIRSHFELD: I'd be happy to.
    I would never want to say we're on auto pilot.
    I guess that's just more of a way of life than anything else.
    But I think there should always be a focus on improving.
    Your question ask a lot.
    About what makes us unique, believe that what makes us unique is the combination of having
    a system put in our Constitution, having a very inventive society.
    I think having confidence in our patent system and the ability and the enthusiasm to support
    that patent system has made it work.
    And as you've heard us all mention in some way, shape, or form, invention leads to more
    And I don't know who to attribute this phrase to, but I hear it very often own inventors
    standing on the shoulders of giants before them.
    And I think what has made us so unique is our inventive history that enables us to continue
    to build on those before us.
    And so I believe we are unique and I think that's been the driver a key driver for the
    United States.
    And it will continue to be.
    That being said, there is always areas to improve.
    I think personally one area that we are starting to focus on and will garner a lot more attention
    as we move forward is international harmonization.
    Patents are you know, patent systems are getting more global.
    Protection is desired in multiple countries.
    We now are just piloting programs where patent examiners in the U.S. will actually share
    their work with other examiners in other offices throughout the country.
    We're doing this with the Japan and Korean patent office and looking at it with other
    countries where they get together when they have similar applications, share the results,
    and then they go over the results before they even get back to the inventor.
    There's a lot more that can be done to help foster a global perspective.
    JAMES WEST: Yeah, I'd like to comment on that, too, because I had an experience that brought
    this whole thing home to me.
    On a tour of China, one of the places that I stopped was the city of Shenzhen, and there
    I had an audience with the minister of technology.
    And he started his talk to me in the following way.
    The United States is really a special place.
    In Silicon Valley, I can stand on any corner and see the world go by.
    And that the diversity of our population is one of the things that makes us inventive.
    And he in fact, if you ever go to the city of Shenzhen, there's a park where all of the
    provinces of China are represented in full I mean, people really live there like they
    do in these places.
    And the reason is he wants to attract as many and get as much diversity into the city of
    Shenzhen as he possibly can in order to improve their ability.
    So we have a tremendous asset.
    And this is one of the reasons that I am so adamant about encouraging women and underrepresented
    minorities that they need to get in the game.
    Susie, do you have a comment on looking at the future?
    SUSIE ARMSTRONG: You know, I think I'd just like to echo what Jim said, and Drew as well,
    is that this spirit of inventiveness, if you will, and creating things, and making things
    has somehow been around for hundreds and hundreds of years in the U.S. I think we do stand some
    risk of losing it if we aren't more inclusive.
    And so but I've worked a lot in Asia, and I've worked some in Europe and other parts
    of the world.
    And, you know, wonderful experiences, and wonderful diversity in some of these places.
    But, you know, you see all that diversity here in D.C., in Silicon Valley, anyplace
    in America you see that diversity.
    And you see working on STEM programs and working with young people, not just kids, you see
    this inherent desire this inherent creativity and curiosity, and the desire to create something,
    whether it's, you know, sewing something or creating something with your hands.
    And I think that's somewhat unique in the U.S., to be able to take that from, you know,
    creating something with your hands to, you know, writing a patent, to being becoming
    an inventor and always curious about what the next thing is.
    Culturally, I feel that the U.S. has a very strong sense of, sort of, community curiosity.
    And we need to make sure that we don't lose that.
    And we need to make sure that everybody gets a chance to participate in it.
    ARTHUR DAEMMRICH: Let's hope so.
    Adam, every once in a while, probably five or seven years, that says, you know, the returns
    from R&D investment are declining and we've captured all the low hanging fruit and it's
    So tell me about the future.
    (Laughter) ADAM MOSSOFF: I'm a historian, I can't make
    predictions about the future.
    Well, one thing is, I want to just riff off of and reiterate the wonderful points already
    made by my co panelists, that you don't ever want to think of yourself on auto pilot.
    The patent system is a human artifact and it can be changed and weakened just as much
    as it can be built up and strengthened.
    For all of our faults in this country, we have had this everyone has identified this
    inventive spirit.
    It's something unique to the culture in this country.
    It fascinating the European in the 19th century.
    Alex talked about it specifically in his famous treatise, Democracy in America, how Americans
    had a pragmatic orientation, always trying to think of knew ways to make their world
    And thankfully we had a patent system which provided really stable, effective property
    rights to the innovators who said you engage in this productive labor.
    A farmer creates a farm.
    You engage in productive labor to create a new invention, whether it's the cotton gin
    or the telegraph, and we'll protect that for you just in the same way that historically
    a farmer has been protected on their farm.
    And that has been fundamental to you know, to incentivizing people to create and to move
    the creations into the marketplace.
    We need to be very careful not to take that for granted if we want to continue to move
    forward and have the types of innovations that we've been talking about, and that Sue
    and Jim have created and contributed to our amazing lives today.
    We have to continue to make sure that we, you know, promote and defend a stable and
    effective patent system that Drew and his examiner corps can ensure that innovators
    will have their inventions secured to them.
    ARTHUR DAEMMRICH: Wonderful.
    We wanted to have a chance to get questions from the audience.
    We have a wireless mic.
    Right here, this young lady.
    AUDIENCE: Thank you.
    It's been a truly honor and privilege to hear from you today.
    Thank you so much.
    My first question is for Sue and Jim as inventors.
    I'm an economist.
    If I don't do my job right, I might lose my job or get reprimanded.
    Maybe you can speak about your lows, what happens when you keep trying to get an invention,
    it might take a month or ten years.
    How do you deal with those lows?
    And my other question is for Drew.
    It's about six patents a month for one patent examiner.
    So, how did you manage to get the 10 million yesterday?
    (Laughter) SUSIE ARMSTRONG: You're a mathematician, so
    you've already done the STEM thing.
    So, just from my point of view, as I sort of alluded to before, these projects, when
    you're in engineering in a company like Qualcomm, these projects are never a single person,
    even packet data, the first packet data was not a single person project.
    You're working on top of technology that other folks built.
    You're working with your colleagues.
    The lows can be really low.
    In this industry but that only makes the highs higher, because, you know, in the tech industry,
    everything is schedule driven.
    Everything is schedule driven and it's also quality driven.
    And so there's huge pressure and there's also first mover advantage, which the patent system
    and innovation has a lot to do with.
    And when you get a patent on something and you're able to share it but you're also able
    to commercialize it and get it out there first, then not only your company, but the whole
    ecosystem benefits from that.
    So, you know, the projects are hard.
    They're complex.
    You know, you have bugs in your software that, you know, you can't imagine how you're ever
    going to find and fix them.
    And nobody knows where it is.
    And there's 6.5 million lines of C code in a cellular modem.
    And you persevere and work with your colleagues, and you never give up.
    And that's actually one of the things I dislike about the culture of, you know, let kids fail.
    In some ways I believe in that, but in other ways, in many of these projects, there is
    not an option of failure.
    You can't just go home and say, okay, we're not going to launch that phone.
    (Laughter) SUSIE ARMSTRONG: We're not going to launch
    that product.
    And, you know, perhaps the same is true when you're actually going out to make an invention.
    So putting in that perseverance and taking that risk that sometimes these inventions
    and these products will not bring you or your company financial gain it's a huge risk.
    And that's why we feel it's so important that we have a strong patent system to protect
    us that kind of investment.
    But then when it works, and when you you know, for me I spent much of my career in software
    on the chipset side.
    When you show your mother the latest phone and say I had something to do with this, there's
    no feeling like that.
    Epic customer parties, too.
    (Laughter) JAMES WEST: My experience is a little bit
    different because I've been mainly fundamental research, basic research, all of my career,
    for that matter.
    And this is kind of interesting.
    A few days ago I was talking with someone about a social problem.
    And I asked one question, how long have you been going down that road?
    25 years or so.
    That's the problem.
    Because, see, one of the things that we know in technology is you don't chase the rabbit.
    But you follow nature.
    And this is not a straight road.
    You can be looking for one thing, but nature says hey, there's something going on over
    here that you need to take a look at.
    Now, you may circle back around and find that solution, right.
    But in research, you cannot tie people to completing a project.
    It's not that kind of an experience.
    On the other hand, every year at Bell Labs I had to write what I call my how great I
    am statement.
    And if I didn't have a number of memos or patent applications or those things, I knew
    that I wouldn't last.
    So you adjust all of these parameters to make sure you can fill that page.
    But on the other hand, you want to make sure that you fill that page with something that
    is good and that will have an advantage.
    Many, many in fact, not too long ago, we found technology that was something like 50 years
    old that was buried in the literature that someone had thought about 50 years ago.
    And we're thinking this is a brand new idea.
    No, no, it isn't.
    And so now you go back and you see what the guy did 50 years ago.
    And now this gives you a foundation for what you can build on and improve that process
    if possible.
    So, yeah.
    There are the highs and lows, there's no doubt about it.
    And I appreciate the lows as well as I appreciate the highs, because when it gets too low it
    means I've got to turn around and go in a different direction, because the one that
    I'm working on is not getting me what I want.
    You become JAMES WEST: You do, there's no doubt about
    ARTHUR DAEMMRICH: Drew, did you want to comment on the volume of patents?
    You sort of answered it by saying how many more officers you have.
    DREW HIRSHFELD: Getting to the conversation we were just having, I do hear inventors all
    the time talk about the highs and the lows.
    And don't be afraid if something doesn't work.
    It might be a low.
    It's not necessarily a failure.
    I think it's how we define failure.
    But as role models for all of us, I do hear inventors talk about when you're striving
    for something in the world of invention, you do have those peaks and valleys.
    And it seems to me, they're neither afraid of that nor worried about that.
    It's part of the process that they go through.
    And to me, that's something that's very special.
    I will also say something that stands out to me about inventors is just I find they're
    so humble.
    It's just amazing to me that I meet people that have literally changed the world, and
    you feel like you're just talking to somebody you met on the street.
    And that to me is also why we're special.
    And I have yet to see how people who make those big changes can be so humble, but yet
    they are, and that always impresses me.
    To the numbers question, I just checked to see if I had notes on the number of patents
    we issue a year.
    I don't have it going back.
    But the office has grown exponentially.
    We went from needing 800 examiners to needing 800.
    The 10 million represents 10 million from the start of our system.
    So it's a celebration of the inventors, it's a celebration of the attorneys, and a celebration
    of the examiners and everyone involved in the system.
    Right now we're issuing I don't know how you got six per examiner, but we issue 350,000
    patents a year at the current rate we're at.
    The rate of filings for us is on a steady increase almost year after year.
    In the last 20 years, there's been an increase in the number of new case filings ranging
    from, you know, like, a few tenths of a percentage all the way up to 3 or 4%.
    And that's been pretty steady.
    In the last 20 years, there's been only one year that didn't have an increase, and that
    was 2009 when we were dealing with the financial crisis.
    So 350,000 now.
    It will be less than three years before the next 1 million milestone comes.
    ARTHUR DAEMMRICH: I'm keeping my eye out whether there's a question on the internet, because
    I know we're webcasting, but let's go with the gentleman with the hand up high right
    over here.
    AUDIENCE: Thank you.
    I don't know if this is going to make you feel better or worse.
    Regardless of what we look like, everyone has been discouraged from math.
    As a math major and the son of a Ph.D. mathematician who was always asked what do you do, he says
    mathematician, is there anything left to do?
    Everybody has a calculator, what do you need to be a mathematician for?
    And we hear this over and over and over again.
    And I wonder if you have any thoughts as to why it is that in this society, where no one
    would ever admit that they had difficulty reading, even if they did, it seems perfectly
    socially accept to believe say oh, I was no good at math, I'll never be good at math,
    you shouldn't even try.
    Get your math requirements out of the way as quick as you can.
    JAMES WEST: Yeah.
    That's a very good question.
    The only way that I can think to answer that is when I encounter that problem, the first
    question I ask, do you play music?
    And if the answer is yes, then I've got a hook, because mathematics is just a different
    language, the same as the scroll on the music scale is a language that you have to learn.
    And I'm not sure whether that helps or not, but I have had some young people come back
    and say when I take that approach to math, I see it in a different light.
    But one of the major problems is that we teach mathematics in a vacuum.
    And mathematics does not belong in a vacuum.
    It's a universal phenomenon.
    And I think it's incumbent upon those in mathematics to figure how to diversify these the mathematical
    process to have a real meaning.
    I remember a long time ago when we started a storefront science center in a small town
    in New Jersey.
    And we ran into the problem of counting of just simple mathematics.
    But when we made it relative, here is a dollar, I want you to go to the bodega down the street
    and I want a bag of potato chips.
    And you can have half of whatever comes back.
    And I want you to tell me how much that was.
    They can figure that out right on the spot.
    When you make it relative to something that they have had an experience with.
    Other than that, I have no suggestions except I agree that we have to turn the attitude
    toward math around, because if our parents say math is great, guess what?
    Your children will probably agree with you.
    ARTHUR DAEMMRICH: Until they're teenagers.
    Gentleman in the blue shirt four rows back.
    AUDIENCE: Thank you.
    I'm a medical graduate from India.
    The choice of panelists has been brilliant.
    Mine is more of a comment than a question, and that's basically the question of 2015
    to 2018, a million patents.
    And Adam, I just want to add to the comment of saying that it's, of course, the population
    I would say it's not only the population explosion, it's the healthy population explosion with
    a higher longevity of life.
    And to that extent, I would like to thank two innovators from America.
    And that's Jonah sulk and Albert.
    Between them, the polio vaccine, everyone sitting in this room would have this a child
    die of that right at birth.
    I mean, there couldn't be bigger innovators than these two guys.
    And believe me, with India, India is declared polio free in 60 years of these inventions.
    I mean, that's the only comment I wanted to add.
    And Susie, patent officers in my country look the same, they are tall, and they have a halo
    on their head.
    Thank you.
    (Laughter) ARTHUR DAEMMRICH: Thank you.
    I want to turn that into a question.
    It may not be exactly what he would have been saying, but let me turn it a little, this
    is to say a piece of that longevity, a piece of the success story of the last two decades
    in the developing world is a rising wealth level, a much larger middle class.
    There are more people alive today who can reasonably become inventors and file a patent
    in the U.S. internationally than ever before in history.
    There's no preordained statement that says the U.S. remains the center of this.
    There was a time when all paths flowed through London when it comes to international ideas
    and flow.
    So what's happening around attracting developing countries from around the world, what keeps
    this going, do you see any threats?
    JAMES WEST: Well, you know, the Earth is going through changes.
    And it's changing the way we live, because while nature is in control, but what that
    does, it's incumbent upon inventors and scientists to figure how to circumvent those changes,
    or survive under the changing conditions.
    And because the change has become very rapid, and most of us have had experiences with it,
    it creates a need to come up with a better solution.
    It encourages inventors and scientists to figure out how we can get through this.
    You mentioned longevity.
    Yes, it's very important and we've made great changes in improving it, but we've got a long
    way to go because there are a lot of people in the world that don't benefit from modern
    That technology has to be made at a price that the developing countries can purchase.
    I think that that's a big driver also, the necessity, the changes in nature that are
    causing us to come up with new solutions to problems, or the new problems that are created.
    Environmental climate change, other challenges.
    Drew, I wonder if you have a comment about the international role of the USPTO.
    Part of our role is to work on harmonization, to get more similarities between the different
    offices and the different practices.
    And one of the challenges that I know inventors face is that different countries have different
    patent laws, and it's very hard to get protection in each one.
    You have to have multiple filings.
    So part of our role is to is one of working on harmonization issues to see where we can
    get more similarities and try to foster growth of those similarities.
    We also have a huge educational compartment of the office that where we have people in
    different countries working to educate those countries about patent systems in general,
    and patent laws to be able to help them come up to speed, so to speak.
    ARTHUR DAEMMRICH: We're over time.
    Is there a web question, or are you . . . Okay.
    We'll take is there one last question from the audience?
    AUDIENCE: Thank you.
    This has been great.
    I'm going to try to go home and convince our daughters to change their majors.
    I'm Adrian, attending the summer program with Professor Mossoff, at the CIP program.
    My question is two part.
    I've heard it said somewhere that all of invention is problem solving, and let me know if you
    agree with that.
    And if you do, as an inventor, do you just go through life surveying the environment
    for problems?
    I have another question, also, for Ms. Adams and Professor West.
    Did you ever have a Eureka moment that you recall, or did the solutions to your problems
    occur to you over a period of time?
    SUSIE ARMSTRONG: Can I take the first part, too, which was I do not believe that invention
    is I strongly do not believe that invention is just problem solving.
    And I do not want to minimize problem solving.
    It's most of what I do in my career and in my work.
    But that implies that you know the exact solution, and it's just a matter of steps to get there.
    And I think that is very different from invention.
    To me, invention is seeing those opportunities sort of those out of the box opportunities
    and solutions solution implies a problem.
    But seeing those out of the box opportunities where you could come up with something brand
    So I do not agree with the statement that whoever made it that invention is simply problem
    Certainly, problem solving comes into, you know, all the work surrounding invention,
    but you have to have that creativity and curiosity that doesn't necessarily come with just problem
    The second question was Eureka.
    There's plenty of them.
    There's plenty of times when you solve a problem and you say, okay, I've got that done.
    And then there's plenty of times when you come up with a new idea or solve the problem
    in a creative way and went, oh.
    Usually it's when I'm running or right before I go to sleep and then I've forgotten it in
    the morning.
    But there are plenty of those eureka moments, and maybe it has something to do with the
    way human brains are wired.
    JAMES WEST: Yeah, the first question, can you phrase it?
    Because I had a nice version there that I forgot.
    It was around invention as problem solving.
    JAMES WEST: Right.
    Inventions solve problems, but not necessarily the ones that the inventor had in mind.
    (Laughter) JAMES WEST: And it's really true.
    I even can cite some examples of that.
    But . . . So, problem solving is a textbook kind of thing, I guess.
    You know, you've got some questions and you're trying to solve a problem.
    Well, we're trying to solve we're trying to understand problems we're trying to understand
    Well, okay.
    I'm getting kind of tied up around here.
    But let me see if I can clear it up in the following way.
    Anything nature is the mother of all inventions.
    What we do is understand how and what nature has done.
    I'm sorry for the you know, for the problem in getting that out, because it is a very
    serious question, and one that has to be cleared up.
    AUDIENCE: So you would say that it's more about discovery?
    JAMES WEST: Yes.
    AUDIENCE: Okay.
    JAMES WEST: That's the right word there.
    And from the standpoint of the eureka moment, you know, I fully agree.
    I can go to bed before going to sleep, come up with the best solution around, only to
    find out that either I don't remember it the next morning, or that it's really a bogus
    But we have many of those.
    And that's what makes it fun, right.
    ARTHUR DAEMMRICH: We do have in our collection some great inventor's notebooks that include
    things they scribbled down in the middle of the night, so I always encourage prospective
    inventors to keep a notebook by their bed.
    Look, we're over time.
    This has been an amazing audience.
    You've been great.
    And an amazing panel.
    Just three things in closing.
    First off, please join me in thanking our amazing panel.
    (Applause) ARTHUR DAEMMRICH: So, second, I also want
    to give a small round of thanks to people who helped make today possible.
    So, Elizabeth Daugherty and Larry at the USPTO really did masterful work helping organize
    the event.
    And then Matt at CBIP, and you coming from that program.
    And third my colleagues Will, Dan, Eric, and Allison did considerable work behind the scenes
    to make this happen.
    And before you leave this is my third point there's several add on pieces to today's program.
    To my left, your right, we have a table of some remarkable items from our historical
    collections oriented around historical key patents and turning points.
    You'll see some changes in the design of the patent, but also a wonderful menu from a 1940
    centennial dinner that featured things like telegraph soup, and a parade of industry.
    So please check those out.
    But also to my right, your left, we have Spark Lab, our hands on invention space.
    So you get to see kids actually actively engaged in the invention process.
    And finally, on your seats, a seek and find of the most notable patent models around the
    We encourage you to check them out and see things the inventor made or held in their
    hands, and a great piece of American history related to invention.
    Thank you all for coming, and thanks again to our panelists.
    (Applause) Thank you.
    SUSIE ARMSTRONG: See you at the next one.
    That's right.
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