Remarks by Director Iancu at Women’s History Month: Celebrating Women in Innovation event

Remarks delivered at Women’s History Month: Celebrating Women in Innovation event

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

March 5, 2019

Alexandria, Virginia

As prepared for delivery

It is so good to see everyone here today, joining us to celebrate women in innovation.

This is a moment of pride for the USPTO. Although our patent system is as old as our nation, this is the first time in history that a public space at the USPTO is being named after a woman. It is about time!

From Clara Barton, who worked at the Patent Office in the 1800s, to Frances Arnold, who holds over40 patents and just won the Nobel Prize in chemistry, women have played a critically important role in American innovation. We are proud to recognize their significant contributions today. More importantly, this administration is committed to further increasing the participation of women in the labor force, especially in STEM fields.

We at the Department of Commerce and the USPTO are especially committed to broadening the innovation ecosphere—demographically, geographically, and economically. Doing so holds tremendous potential for the United States and for all Americans. A recent Harvard study found that increasing invention rates among women, minorities, and children from low-income families could up to quadruple the rate of U.S. innovation. Well, let’s do that! Let’s all work together to unleash these untapped possibilities. To that end, we need industry, academia, and government to increase our collective focus on these issues and to work together to solve the so-called “lost Einsteins” problem.

The USPTO is committed to play a leading role in this effort. For example, the USPTO is stimulating discussions across the IP community. The gender report we issued last month provides some relevant data as a starting point. Soon after the report, we led a roundtable discussion on diversity in patenting in Silicon Valley with representatives from academia, professional organizations, and leading companies across multiple industries. Next week, the USPTO will likewise be advancing this dialogue at South-by-Southwest in Austin, Texas, which is the world’s largest gathering of creative professionals across multiple industries. And we will continue these discussions throughout the year and beyond.

The bottom line is this: In today’s highly competitive global economy, it is increasingly important to ensure that all Americans who are willing to work hard and persevere—have the opportunity to innovate, start new companies, succeed in established companies, and ultimately achieve the American Dream.

One of the first steps is to highlight role models that young Americans can look up to, role models in which they can see themselves. Without role models in the relevant fields, particularly STEM fields and leadership positions, children may not see the countless possibilities open to them, and so may choose to follow other paths.

If we want that little girl to grow up to be a leading chemist, she should probably know about Frances Arnold. That little girl should know that she too could grow up and have many patents, and maybe one day even win the Nobel Prize. And she should know about Clara Barton, Hedy Lamarr, Stephanie Kwolek, and Jacqueline Quinn, and so many other transformative women inventors and entrepreneurs. She should know that she too could grow up to be like them, and maybe change the world with her ingenuity. These are American heroes that we must celebrate and elevate as role models.

In addition, everyone should also know about the outstanding role models in our midst, the truly inspirational leaders here with us today. For example, Karen Dunn Kelley has been doing an amazing job as our deputy secretary of commerce. I am privileged to have been working with her for the past year. She is thoughtful and deliberate, leads with a steady hand, and on top of it all she has a great sense of humor even under the most difficult circumstances.

Judge Pauline Newman, a former Ph.D. chemist and now a distinguished jurist, is a legend in intellectual property and a role model to me and so many others in this field. Congresswoman Roby is now the ranking member of the House IP sub-committee. She will play an increasingly important role in intellectual property policy for a long time to come. And of course the accomplished inventors and entrepreneurs who are also with us today, some of whom you will hear from shortly. Laura Peter, our deputy director, will come back to the podium and introduce all of them more fully in a minute.

I want to take this opportunity to formally introduce Laura herself, who is yet another leader and role model in our midst. Laura is a friend and a most reliable partner as we lead this great agency. Laura joined us a couple of months ago from Silicon Valley, where she was counsel for A10 Networks, and before that for Immersion Corporation and Foundry Networks. Laura has a bachelor’s in engineering from Cornell and a master’s in public policy from the University of Chicago. She also has a law degree from Santa Clara, and a Master of Law in international business law from King’s College London. Laura has deep experience with all aspects of intellectual property, and we are fortunate to have her leadership as deputy director at the USPTO. I turn the podium back now to her.

Thank you all again for being with us today.