The World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) established World Intellectual Property Day that is celebrated every April 26, to increase public awareness about intellectual property (IP) and its role in encouraging innovations for economic development.
The theme of World IP Day 2023 is “Women and IP: Accelerating innovation and creativity”, to celebrate the “can-do” attitude of women inventors, creators, and entrepreneurs around the world.
Women have made significant contributions to the field of intellectual property (IP), as inventors, entrepreneurs, academicians, or in legal roles. Their contributions span across all industries, including medicine, science, engineering, technology, fashion, arts, etc.,
World IP Day provides a unique opportunity to recognize the contributions of innovative, creative, and enterprising women who have been at the forefront of innovation for centuries.
The exemplary contributions of few women are highlighted, but there are countless other examples of innovative and enterprising women.
- Sybilla Righton Masters, an American inventor was the first person to be issued an English patent (GB Patent 604) in 1715 by King George I for her invention titled “Cleaning and Curing Indian Corn Growing”. Her invention was significant because it allowed to produce a much finer and uniform cornmeal than what was previously available.
- Mary Dixon Kies, an American inventor was issued the first US patent in 1809 for her invention of a method of weaving straw with silk or thread. The Patent Act of 1790 was the first patent law in the US that allowed any person to apply for a patent and Mary Kies decided to patent her invention in order to have all the rights. She was inducted in the U.S. National Inventors Hall of Fame in 2006.
- Josephine Cochran invented the first mechanical dishwasher. She was issued a US patent (No. 355,139) in 1886 titled “Dish Washing Machine”. To protect her fine china and avoid having to hand-wash them herself, Josephine Cochran set out to invent a better dishwashing machine. She founded The Garis-Cochran Company and began selling her dishwashers to hotels and restaurants which later became part of KitchenAid.
“If nobody else is going to invent a dishwashing machine, I’ll do it myself.”
- Hedy Lamarr, an American film actress and talented inventor made significant contributions to the field of communications technology that have had a profound impact on modern technology. During World War II, Hedy Lamarr and George Antheil co-invented a secret communication system that used frequency hopping to prevent the signals from being jammed by enemy forces. They were granted U.S. Patent 2,292,387 for their invention, which was titled “Secret Communication System”. This system was a precursor to modern Wi-Fi technology, and it laid the foundation for many of the wireless communication technologies that we use today.
- Tu Youyou, a Chinese pharmaceutical chemist and malariologist, is best known for her work on artemisinin, a drug that has proven highly effective in treating malaria. On April 1, 1985, when China’s patent law was enforced, Tu Youyou applied for a patent (CN85100978), prior to which she had published papers. She was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physiology or Medicine in 2015 for her contributions to the development of this life-saving drug.
- Jennifer Doudna and Emmanuelle Charpentier are renowned biochemists who are known for their groundbreaking work on CRISPR-Cas9 gene editing. This technology has been described as a “revolution” in the field of genetic engineering and has provided new opportunities for the development of treatments for genetic diseases. The University of California patented the work (U.S. Patent 10,000,772). The work of the duo on CRISPR-Cas9 has been recognized with numerous awards and honors, including the 2020 Nobel Prize in Chemistry.
- Katalin Karikó is a Hungarian-American biochemist who won the European Inventor Award 2022 for her invention entitled “Modified mRNA for life-saving vaccines and therapies”. Katalin Karikó holds several patents related to mRNA technology (EP2510099B1, EP3112467B1, EP3287525B1). It was in late 2020 that BioNTech introduced the company’s mRNA vaccine for COVID-19 to the market for the first time.
”I never doubted it would work”
– Katalin Karikó (COVID Technology Pioneer)
- Elena García Armada is a Spanish scientist who did extensive research on prosthetic exoskeletons to aid people in walking. She developed World’s first adaptable robotic exoskeleton for children, granted as patents EP3225363B1, EP3009240B1. The exoskeleton enables children to walk during muscle rehabilitation therapy. Elena is also the winner of the European Inventor Award 2022.
“It is important that all women who lead business projects must be visible”
– Elena García Armada
- First black women to be inducted to National Inventors Hall of Fame 2022:
- Marian Croak, a leading engineer in Google’s Research Center for Responsible AI and Human Centered Technology. Marian Croak has worked on Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) technology which can convert voice data into digital signals that can be transmitted over the internet rather than through phone lines and is essential for remote work and conferencing. She has more than 200 patents on her name.
- Patricia Bath, an ophthalmologist received her first US medical patent in 1988 for her invention of a device laserphaco, a non- invasive device and technique for cataract removal.
- Pranoti Nagarkar-Israni, a mechanical engineer, designed an AI and IOT enabled smart kitchen appliance Rotimatic, for making soft, fluffy rotis (Indian bread) that can be operated remotely through a smartphone app. In addition to her design patent (USD768425), Pranoti has filed a large number of patents for her invention.
There are countless other stories of women inventors, creators or entrepreneurs whose groundbreaking innovations have made a positive difference in the world. Recognizing and celebrating the achievements of women in all fields can help inspire and encourage more women to reach their full potential and make valuable contributions to the intellectual property field.
This article is based on the insights and expertise of women scientists at SciTech Patent Art who have chosen to pursue a career in intellectual property.
Kameshwari V, Sowmya Priya G., Dr. Baisali Sarkar and Harita S Achanta
Sources: Wikipedia, EPO.org, Nobelprize.org and NPR.org