Asian Pacific Americans Hold Patents on Important Inventions

Press Release

Maria V. Hernandez

Washington - In conjunction with Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, the Department of Commerce's United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) is recognizing Asian Pacific Americans whose inventions have contributed to making this country the most technologically advanced in the world.

Asian Pacific American Heritage Month, held each year during the month of May, celebrates Asian Pacific American cultures and heritage and recognizes the many contributions Asian Pacific Americans have made to this nation.

An Wang (1920-1990), a Chinese-born American computer scientist, is best known for founding Wang Laboratories and holding over 35 patents including patent no. 2,708,722 for a magnetic pulse transfer controlling device which related to computer memory and was crucial to the development of digital information technology. Wang Laboratories was founded in 1951 and by 1989 employed 30,000 people and had $3 billion a year in sales, with such developments as desktop calculators and the first word processors. Wang was inducted into the National Inventor's Hall of Fame in 1988.

Dr. Enrique M. Ostrea, Jr., received patent no. 5,015,589 and patent no. 5,185,267 for methods of testing infants for exposure to drugs or alcohol during pregnancy. Ostrea, who was born in the Philippines, immigrated to America in 1968. Ostrea continues to be honored for his contributions to pediatrics and neonatology.

Tuan Vo-Dinh, who immigrated to the U.S. in 1975 from Vietnam, has received 23 patents mainly related to optical diagnostic equipment, including his first patents (#4,674,878 and #4,680,165) for badges that can be optically scanned to determine exposure to toxic chemicals. Vo-Dinh utilizes similar technology in patent no. 5,579,773 which is an optical method of cancer detection.

Flossie Wong-Staal, a Chinese-American scientist, is a leader in AIDS research. Working with a team that included Dr. Robert C. Gallo, she helped to discover the virus that causes AIDS and a related virus that causes cancer. She also did the first mapping of HIV's genes. Wong-Staal continues to work on a vaccine to prevent AIDS and treatments for those with AIDS. Her patents, which were granted with co-inventors, include patent no. 6,077,935 for a method of testing for AIDS.

These patents, as well as the more than six million patents issued since the first in 1790 and the 2.3 million trademarks registered since 1870, can be seen on the Department of Commerce's U.S. Patent and Trademark Office Web site at Last year USPTO issued 187,824 patents and registered 102,314 trademarks.

"Minority Inventors: America's Tapestry of Innovation," a video produced by the USPTO that tells the story of minority inventors of the past and the present, is available from the agency's Office of Public Affairs (703) 305-8341.

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