USPTO renames visiting scholars program after pioneering inventor of technology for virtual phone calls, text-to-donate system Dr. Marian Rogers Croak

Press Release

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WASHINGTON— In support of its ongoing initiatives to expand inclusive innovation and entrepreneurship to grow jobs and improve lives, the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) today announced the renaming of its Edison Visiting Scholars Program after Dr. Marian Rogers Croak, a pioneer in Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) technologies, inventor of the text-to-donate system, and a 2022 inductee into the National Inventors Hall of Fame.

“Dr. Croak’s contributions to global society are unparalleled, with her VoIP technology serving as the basis for today’s Zoom, Microsoft Teams, and other telecommunications programs that enable virtual connectivity,” said Kathi Vidal, Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Director of the USPTO. “This technology helped so many of us remain connected with our loved ones during the pandemic and has transformed the modern workplace. Additionally, her invention of the text-to-donate technology has given charities, non-profit organizations, and other causes a simpler, more efficient way to collect donations and advance their important work. Dr. Croak is a visionary and I’m proud, on behalf of USPTO employees, to have the Dr. Marian Rogers Croak Visiting Scholars Program.”

“I am truly humbled to receive this honor from the USPTO,” said Dr. Marian Rogers Croak. “This program is essential to improving the quality of our intellectual property system and expanding access to our nation’s innovation and entrepreneurship ecosphere. I thank Director Kathi Vidal and the USPTO for this special recognition, and I look forward to meeting future Croak Scholars!”

Dr. Croak began her career at Bell Labs (later AT&T) in 1982 with a position in the Human Factors research division, looking at how technology could be used to positively impact people’s lives.  In USPTO’s 2020 Journeys of Innovation profile story, Dr. Croak reflected on her childhood in Manhattan, noting that fixing problems and helping people is a driving force for her: “I remember being a child and my mother, she was working at home as a house maker and, frequently when things would break, she would call my father, and then my father would call an electrician or a plumber, and I would follow them around our house. And I was really interested in how they would fix things that were broken. And I thought I was going to be one of them because I wanted my mother to call me when something was broken. So I became very interested in how things worked and then how to fix them. And I continue to keep that interest and motivation. My whole profession has been looking at something that needs to change or to be fixed and trying to do this.”

Now a Vice President of Engineering at Google, she focuses on reliability engineering to improve the performance of systems and services while continuing her racial justice work by encouraging young girls and women to pursue careers in engineering. Dr. Croak holds more than 200 patents and is the only living Black female inductee into the National Inventors Hall of Fame.

Following the introduction of the Visiting Scholars program in January 2012, the program participants – consisting of Distinguished Scholars and Research Fellows – are experts in their fields, studying and providing recommendations to the Director on ways to improve USPTO's efficiency and performance, decrease burdens on applicants, and improve patent quality and clarity, among other topics.  

The renaming of the program is part of a concerted effort on behalf of the USPTO to build on its mission to expand the entire innovation ecosystem, from its work on the Council for Inclusive Innovation (CI2) and the Economic Development Administration’s National Advisory Council on Innovation and Entrepreneurship, to potentially expanding the patent bars to enable more individuals to represent inventors on patent matters before the USPTO, and increase USPTO resources across the country to assist more under-resourced and underserved individuals as they create and grow businesses around their ideas, transforming communities and economies.  

The renaming of the Visiting Scholars program is a result of an internal USPTO poll, launched by Director Vidal in May and concluded in July, that solicited ideas from USPTO employees on innovators – both historic and current – who have embodied the spirit of innovation and the diversity, equity, inclusion, and accessibility (DEIA) principles at the center of the USPTO’s strategic plan. Dr. Croak received the most votes among employees’ suggestions.

For more information about the Visiting Scholars Program, please visit  

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