Maria V. Hernandez
National Hispanic Heritage Month, held each year from September 15 - October 15, celebrates Hispanic cultures and heritage and recognizes the many contributions Hispanic Americans have made to this nation.
In conjunction with Hispanic Heritage Month, the Department of Commerce's United States Patent and Trademark Office is recognizing some very special Hispanic Americans whose inventions contributed a great deal to making this country the most technologically advanced nation in the world.
Luis Alvarez received patent #2,480,208 in 1949 for a radio distance and direction indicator, essentially radar systems used during World War II to locate and land aircraft. He also developed, with others, the hydrogen bubble chamber, which was used to detect subatomic particles. This resulted in a major rethinking of nuclear theories. Alvarez was born in San Francisco and was living in Santa Fe when he received his patent. He was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics in 1968, and in 1978 was inducted into the National Inventor's Hall of Fame.
Victor Ochoa, was born in 1850 in Ojinaga, Mexico and resided in El Paso, Texas; New York; and Peekskill, N.Y. when he received several patents, including two for adjustable wrenches (patents #1,417,196 and #1,454,333); others for the rail magnetic brake for street cars (patent #873,587) which he sold to the American Brake Company; the reversible motor (patent #718,508); and an improvement for the windmill that was to be constructed cylindrically (patent #1,319,174). Ochoa also received numerous patents from other countries.
Ellen Ochoa, who became the first Hispanic female astronaut in 1990, was a co-inventor on three patents in the field of optical information processing, using an optical system or laser light to extract information from an image rather than using an electronic or computer system. Her patents are for an optical inspection system (patent #4,674,824) in 1987, an optical object recognition method (patent# 4,838,644) in 1989, as well as a method for noise removal in images (patent #4,949,389) in 1990. Ochoa was born in Los Angeles in 1958 and listed her residences on her patents as Stanford and Pleasanton, Calif.
A number of well-known U.S. trademarks protect products and services with roots in the Hispanic culture. Trademark registration #2444627, for example, protects the word Selena when used to sell dolls named after Selena, the late Tejano singing sensation. Registration #1980712 ensures that the term MSM/Miami Sound Machine is protected for the use in compact discs, videotapes and records for the group founded by Gloria and Emilio Estefan. The word Goya is synonymous with Latin American food products and its use in association with such items as Vienna sausage, canned fruit juices, soups, and spices, among others, is protected by registration #0962193. Corona and Tecate, two Mexican beers popular in the U.S., are protected by registration #1727969 and registration #1666892.
These patents and trademarks, as well as the more than 6 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 United States Patent and Trademark Office web site at www.uspto.gov.
Last year USPTO issued 182,223 patents and registered 127,794 trademarks.