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Tuesday Apr 06, 2010

Celebrating America's Greatest Inventors

Blog by Under Secretary of Commerce for Intellectual Property and Director of the USPTO David Kappos

It was just a spectacular time to be in Washington D.C. last week. The weather was as good as it gets and the cherry blossoms were in full flower. It all made for a perfect setting for the annual induction ceremony of the National Inventors Hall of Fame. I had the great pleasure of participating in the ceremony, which was held at the Department of Commerce auditorium. It was the first time the event had been held in Washington since 1988.

The USPTO co-founded the Hall of Fame in 1973 and has always supported its noble mission of paying homage to the innovative giants of our time. And what a class of inductees we had this year. Collectively, they have amassed 387 patents. Their innovations have saved millions of lives, improved the quality of life for countless others and transformed the way just about everyone on the planet communicates, navigates and entertains themselves.

They join the 421 inductees who are enshrined at the National Inventors Hall of Fame and Museum on the USPTO campus. If you haven't had a chance to visit the Hall of Fame and Museum, I hope you will do so soon. There you will be able to grasp the immense contributions that these women and men have made to society. The technologies they have created are a road map through the progress of the modern world, a patent-by-patent history of the evolution of technology.

Shortly after becoming Director of the USPTO last August, I visited the Hall of Fame.  It was, even for someone like me who has spent my entire adult life working with inventors, an inspiring experience. But I took something even more important away from that visit--a renewed commitment to the cause of reforming and transforming the USPTO and creating a more modern patent system that better serves America's innovative genius. I can think of no better way for all of us at the USPTO to honor and thank these amazing people than to pledge ourselves to achieving that goal.

As always I look forward to your comments and suggestions.


The USPTO should team up with the Smithsonian's Museum of American History (Lemelson Center) to present a course on how to invent. Inventing is a teachable skill that is very valuable for the American economy. You could start with the simple technique of the morphological table that generates possible invention ideas. (I wrote an article on this technique titled, "The Morphological Table - An Invention Generator" that was published in QEX magazine, December 1987 - ARRL Newington Ct.) Then the course can go onward to look at invention as a process of analyzing functional alternatives. To invent from a functional alternative basis, you look first at the service or function that you want to achieve and then start developing feasible alternatives to what is being done in the current state of the art. It would help America's economy and the World if we started teaching the process of invention and getting more Americans to produce new inventions.

Posted by Nickolaus Leggett on April 20, 2010 at 07:29 AM EDT #

Director Kappos, Thank you for viewing USPTO’s work from all directions, including inventors’ perspectives. You say that visiting the Inventors Hall of Fame spurred your “renewed commitment to the cause of reforming and transforming the USPTO.” We commend you for that. Those of us who follow details of the thoughtful recent administrative steps to improve examination taken under your direction can see first positive signs of this commitment by you and your team. I am particularly impressed by your attention to detail and your personal effort to fully understand the examination process from the examiner’s perspective. You had mentioned in recent remarks at the William Mitchell College that you have personally examined a sample application to experience first-hand the USPTO process. This positive approach could not have been taken by your recent predecessors. Thank you for embarking on this important voyage of reforming the USPTO and for your public service.

Posted by Ron D. Katznelson on April 24, 2010 at 01:22 PM EDT #

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