Remarks by Director Iancu at the 2019 National Inventors Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony

Remarks delivered at the 2019 National Inventors Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony

Director of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office Andrei Iancu

May 2, 2019

Washington, DC

As prepared for delivery


“That's one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.” On July 20 this year, in just a couple months, we will celebrate 50 years since the landing on the moon. A few decades after the moon landing, and those epochal words, NASA launched another spacecraft, called Cassini, primarily to study Saturn.

During its life, Cassini took many breathtaking photographs of Saturn, its rings and natural satellites. One of the photographs, though, is especially poignant. As in many others, we can see Saturn and its rings. But in this one, Cassini turned its lens around, towards Earth. Just beyond Saturn’s rings, off in the distance, there it is—a tiny speck, a mere dot, barely visible.

When the picture went public, one reporter said that Earth appeared as “an insignificant-looking pale blue dot.” Another said, “We’re just a speck of dust.” How small and insignificant, they said, we humans—with our never-ending silly problems—can seem in the grand scheme of the universe. And yet—

And yet, we humans figured out the laws of physics, invented a device, launched it into space, and flew it into the orbit of a far-away planet. And it was humans who commanded this craft, from some 800 million miles away, to turn around, to take a picture, and to send it back to us.

Back to this pale blue dot, to this mere speck of dust. Insignificant? Hardly.

When we humans harness that most unique of human qualities—the power to reason, to work together, to invent, to create—we are capable of the most remarkable things. That is what inventors do, and that is what we celebrate tonight: the wonder of invention, the brilliance of inventors, and the giant leaps they urge upon mankind. Thank you all for being here and for celebrating with us.

Welcome to the 47th annual National Inventors Hall of Fame Induction Ceremony. I am especially honored to welcome to our celebration tonight Secretary and Mrs. Ross. As you will hear in a moment, they, too, are huge supporters of innovation.

Before I introduce the Secretary, though, I want to recognize several honored guests: the Honorable Sharon Prost, Chief Judge, Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit; the Honorable Pauline Newman, Judge, Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit; Julia Hahn, Special Assistant to the President of the United States; Michael Kratsios, Deputy Assistant to the President, at the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy; and Dr. Walt Copan, Under Secretary of Commerce and Director of the National Institute of Standards and Technology.

Finally, on behalf of all of us at the USPTO, a very special thank you to Mike Oister, and the entire team at the National Inventors Hall of Fame for everything that you do to promote innovation. Your work is invaluable, and we are honored to be your partners. Now, it is my distinct honor to introduce the United States Secretary of Commerce, Wilbur Ross.

The former Chairman and Chief Strategy Officer of WL Ross & Co., Secretary Ross has deep investment banking and private equity experience. Throughout his career, he has restructured over $400 billion of assets in a wide variety of industries. He has been chairman or lead director of more than 100 companies operating in more than 20 different countries.

Clearly, Secretary Ross has a passion for business and deeply understands the challenges and opportunities facing America’s entrepreneurs and inventors. Secretary Ross is also a frequent visitor at the USPTO and the NIHF museum. On a personal note, it is an honor for me—both personally and professionally—to serve under Secretary Ross’s leadership. I very much appreciate his guidance and trust. Please join me in welcoming our Secretary of Commerce, Wilbur Ross.