U.S. Chamber of Commerce Equality of Opportunity in the Innovation Economy Conference
Director of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office Andrei Iancu
October 1, 2020
As prepared for delivery
Thank you, David, for that kind introduction and for inviting me to speak at this timely and important conference. A big thank you also to Frank Cullen who helped to organize this event. At the USPTO, we are proud of the close partnership we have with the U.S. Chamber and its members. The Chamber has been a strong advocate for business, innovation, and entrepreneurship, and I look forward to our continued work together, especially as we work to expand opportunities in innovation for all Americans.
Today’s conference comes just two weeks after we launched the National Council for Expanding American Innovation (NCEAI). This historic initiative resulted from the USPTO's work on the 2018 SUCCESS Act report, which found that women and minorities are underrepresented as inventors named on U.S. granted patents. In that report, we recommended the creation of a high-level council of industry, academic, and government leaders to help craft a national strategy for increasing participation of underrepresented groups in U.S. innovation.
This is precisely what we are now implementing. Our country needs more inventors, more entrepreneurs, and many more innovation leaders.
The creation of the new National Council for Expanding American Innovation is one of the most important initiatives the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office has undertaken in the last 30 years. And we have been extremely pleased by the overwhelming response to its September launch. I was truly inspired by the earnest and enthusiastic discussions that took place during that inaugural meeting. You can learn more by visiting our National Council website at uspto.gov/ExpandingAmericanInnovation.
The bottom line is this: in today’s highly competitive global economy, it’s critical that all Americans willing to work hard, persevere, and take risks have the opportunity to innovate, to start new companies, to succeed in established companies, and, ultimately, to achieve the American dream.
To that end, we must expand the innovation ecosystem demographically, geographically, and economically. Demographically, we know from the USPTO’s recent Progress and Potential report that women make up only 13% of inventors named on U.S. patents. The numbers are improving, but there is so much more that needs to be done. Likewise, the engagement of minorities in the American innovation enterprise is not where it needs to be, and by an even greater margin.
Moreover, individuals in economically disadvantaged areas are also underrepresented in the innovation economy. And geographically, those located far from the country’s major technology hubs are also not participating nearly to the same extent.
All this must change.
Innovation is driving every aspect of the economy, and our lives. And it is innovation that will solve the major problems confronting humanity, including eradication of the coronavirus.
Innovation can be the great equalizer. With broader opportunities in the innovation ecosystem, more Americans can partake of its great benefits. Recent studies show that by harnessing the creative talent of all Americans, we could quadruple the number of inventors and increase the overall level of U.S. GDP per capita by up to 4.4%.
Innovation can also be the great unifier. It’s part of the American character and we can all get behind it, once again. Just as we did in the 19th century with the American invention of the telegraph, electricity, and telephone. And just as we did in the 20th century with the American invention of the airplane, internet, biotechnology, GPS, and so much more.
Innovation can bring us together, and we can all get behind it, as we did when the United States put men on the moon some 50 years ago. We’re a nation of risk takers and problem solvers. We’re a people whose curiosity, imagination, and productive perseverance have changed the world.
We can all get behind innovation once again. I am asking all of you to join me in this effort: a national call to promote innovation everywhere, and with everyone. Quite simply, in this hyper-competitive global economy, we need all hands on deck.
Our country has taken on great challenges in the past and we can do it again. But we need your help. We need you to help inspire all Americans, from all walks of life and from across the entire land, to participate in our innovation ecosystem. We need you to help mentor the next generation and encourage them to unleash their creative talents. And we need your help to find and promote role models that the next generation can identify with, and can look up to.
One such remarkable role model is joining us today: Dr. Marian Rogers Croak. Dr. Croak’s ground-breaking work in Voice over IP technology has been instrumental in allowing us to stay connected these past months, and for a long time prior. In fact, Dr. Croak has received or applied for more than 100 patents on Voice over IP technology, allowing sound to transmit as data over optical and cellular networks. Her innovations make online conferences such as this possible.
Dr. Croak also invented a text-to-donate technology after Hurricane Katrina, allowing Americans to donate to charitable organizations by typing a simple text. She has spent more than three decades developing advanced technologies for voice and data networks and the Internet. All in all, she holds more than 200 patents across various technologies.
We are honored to recognize her contributions to American society, and the world.
In all of my conversations with inventors and innovators, I have been struck by one recurring theme. When asked where they found their inspiration, their answer is strikingly similar: a parent, a teacher, a mentor. It was someone who believed in them, who gave them a nudge, and told them that they can do it.
The impact of a mentor cannot be overstated. As Dr. Croak recently shared: “… The more role models that people have, the more inspired they are to understand that they are capable of doing anything.”
Dr. Croak is that role model to countless individuals who look to her as an example of making the impossible possible. She is a visionary who makes the unknown real, and she helps others visualize and realize their own dreams.
In recognition of the achievements she has made as an inventor, and as a role model for the next generation of inventors, I am proud to announce that we are adding Dr. Marian Rogers Croak to our USPTO Inventor Trading Card series.
These cards recognize a wide variety of patent holders from many diverse backgrounds. They are distributed by the USPTO to students, teachers, and parents at education and outreach events throughout the country. I’m pleased to note that they have become extremely popular and collectible. They are introducing future inventors to the vast array of technologies that are available for them to pursue, and to those current and past inventors who inspire them to do so.
We are excited to add Dr. Marian Rogers Croak to this illustrious group of inventors. … Marian, you inspire all of us with your perseverance, passion, and vision. I’m excited that so many of our school children and young adults will be able to collect your card, read about your accomplishments, and be inspired by your example.
And to all of you watching this program: we’re asking you to help us spread the word about Dr. Croak, and make sure boys and girls and young adults across America know her name and her amazing work. And help us spread the word about all of our great inventors. Requests for our inventor trading cards can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org, or you can view them on the Kids page of our website at uspto.gov.
I also invite you to visit our website and read our Journeys of Innovation articles every month, with inspiring stories about inspiring inventors. This month, we are featuring Dr. Croak. Please also check out our website for information about our upcoming Speaker Series with Dr. Croak, where I will have the privilege to engage with her in a one-on-one discussion.
Again, thank you to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce for inviting me to be with you today, and for allowing me to showcase the incredible contributions of one of our most remarkable innovators. And thank you all for the important work you do every day for innovation and the American economy.