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Here’s One Way We’re Celebrating Inventors This Thanksgiving

The time to gather around the table with food, family and friends to share what we’re thankful for is almost upon us. At IV, we’re taking our turn at the table to share a little early this year, as we express our gratitude for Inventors Digest – a publication committed to educating and inspiring inventors from all walks of life. The latest edition features wheelchairs transformed into dragons, Star Trek and an enduring champion for the small inventor. So this Thanksgiving – after the pumpkin pie – spend some time with these powerful stories of inventors and inventions that are transforming lives.  

Here’s One Way We’re Celebrating Inventors This Thanksgiving

Giving Thanks to Those that Give Back

This month’s issue highlights organizations that use the spirit of invention to help others. Among them is Magic Wheelchair, a nonprofit that builds Halloween costumes for children in wheelchairs. We should add that these “costumes” – far from your average Spiderman suit – are elaborate designs that incorporate each wheelchair in a big way. Past costumes include a mermaid riding a sea turtle, a Mickey Mouse train and a chef with a stovetop.  

Check out the full story to learn more about the “magic” wheelchairs putting a smile on the faces of kids throughout the nation, a UK organization fostering innovation to help people with sensory impairments, and even our own commitment at Intellectual Ventures to spark interest in science and STEM education. [PAGE 26]            

The Woman Who Started a Movement

In this month’s edition, you’ll also meet Joanne Hayes-Rines, a trailblazer who was one of the first editors of Inventors Digest and a passionate advocate for the American inventor. Her tenacious efforts to reform the U.S. patent system have made a lasting impact on the world of invention and it’s a story you don’t want to miss. [PAGE 22]

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Patents for Humanity: Global Good’s Passive Vaccine Storage Device, Arktek, wins USPTO Award

Through its Patents for Humanity Award, the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO) illuminates stories of technologies that are making real change in the world for those most in need. This year, one of those stories is ours to tell. 

In the developing world, more than 1.5 million children under the age of five die each year from vaccine-preventable diseases. Seven years ago, the Global Good team set out to change this. The team had a vision to help deliver vaccines to rural areas where vaccines are often critical, and power is scarce or nonexistent. 

Through the invention of Arktek™ – a device which can keep vaccines cool for more than a month with no power – inventors, rocket scientists, industrial engineers and health experts worked together to turn this vision into a reality. The technology has been transformative for countries with the lowest immunization rates in the world including Ghana, Ethiopia, Senegal and Nigeria.
 

Since the first U.S. patent was issued in 1790, patents have provided the momentum driving the developed world into each era of technological progress. In the modern invention landscape, the Global Good team draws on resources, such as patents, that are often reserved for commercial pursuits in the developed world to lift up those living in our world’s most impoverished countries.  

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Inspiring the Next Generation of Women in STEM with the Expanding Your Horizons Network

As IV President and COO Adriane Brown once said, “it is important to recognize that we as a company, a country, and as a world community must do better to encourage women to pursue educations and careers in STEM fields.” Intellectual Ventures is committed to adding more women voices to the world of invention. That’s why we have partnered with Expanding your Horizons Network (EYHN), a nonprofit organization dedicated to providing gateway STEM experiences to middle and high school girls that spark interest in STEM careers. 

Inspiring the Next Generation of Women in STEM with the Expanding Your Horizons Network

Photo courtesy of Expanding Your Horizons Network

Through its worldwide network of 100 STEM conferences, EYHN opens the minds of young women to the possibility of careers in math and science. At these conferences, girls meet and interact with female adult STEM role models and participate with their peers in hands-on STEM activities. The conferences consist of customizable workshops based on each girl’s specific area of interest.

Every year, EYHN conferences helps 24,000 girls in 33 states and three countries to recognize their potential as powerful thought leaders and innovators in the field of STEM.

IV has worked with EYHN for 3 years, supporting several local chapters in and around the Seattle area. Most recently, IV employees led hands-on workshops for middle school and high school students at Bellevue College and Seattle University, giving girls the opportunity to learn how STEM has enriched the lives of innovators on the IV team. Past IV sponsored workshops have included Invent This! Learn how great ideas are developed and patented hosted by volunteers from the Invention Science Fund and Epidemics! How diseases spread and what we can do to stop them hosted by volunteers from the Institute for Disease Modeling.

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The Heartbeat of Invention: How Pacemaker Creator Wilson Greatbatch Saved Countless Lives

“Failure is a learning experience, and the guy who has never failed has never done anything” – Wilson Greatbatch 

The Heartbeat of Invention: How Pacemaker Creator Wilson Greatbatch Saved Countless Lives

A lot can happen in a minute. In the world of scientific invention, a minute can be pivotal. A spark can trigger a life-changing idea for an inventor in a minute, and 60 seconds is all it takes for an inventor to make a huge mistake.

In some extraordinary cases, perhaps both phenomena can occur in that same moment in time. This was the case for Dr. Wilson Greatbatch, an inventor who in just a minute, made an error that led to a life-saving invention and forever changed cardiovascular healthcare.

The Mistake that Sparked It All

In 1956, Greatbatch attempted to create a heart rhythm recorder. However, after mistakenly adding an incorrect electronic component, the device produced electronic pulses instead of simply recording the sound of the heartbeat as he had intended. Listening to the pulse of the device, a sound similar to that made by a healthy heart, Greatbatch had his critical “a ha” moment. In that moment, he realized that this device could help an unhealthy heart stay in rhythm by delivering shocks to help the heart muscles to pump and contract blood.

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A Woman of Many Firsts, Marie Curie Embraced the Unknown

By any measure, Marie Curie was one of the most revolutionary scientists in history. In 1903, she became the first woman to win a Nobel Prize. She was also the first person to be honored with two Nobel Prizes, and she remains both the only woman to win twice and the only person to win in multiple sciences. 

A Woman of Many Firsts, Marie Curie Embraced the Unknown

By Fotograv. - Generalstabens Litografiska Anstalt Stockholm [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

At IV, we are focused on the road ahead – how to make the future better than the present through new inventions. But as we generate ideas to propel our world forward, it is important to remember those brave pioneers who paved the road that we continue to travel on. Just ahead of what would be her 149th birthday, we honor one of these early trailblazers whose work led to the development of cancer treatments, advanced x-rays and the redefining of established ideas in physics and chemistry.

Widely considered the most important piece of research she conducted, Curie was able to show that the radiation was not the outcome of the interaction of molecules, but came from the atom itself. She used the electrometer, a device for measuring electrical charge, to determine that the activity of uranium compounds only depends on the quantity of the uranium.

In partnership with her husband, Pierre, Curie discovered two elements, polonium and radium. After almost a decade of research, Curie developed methods for the separation of radium from radioactive residues in order to characterize and study its properties, particularly therapeutic properties.  

During World War I, Curie recognized the need for field radiological centers near the front and developed mobile x-ray and radiography units. She helped to equip ambulances with x-ray equipment, which she herself drove to the front lines. It is estimated that over one million wounded soldiers were treated between the mobile units and the 200 radiological units at field hospitals.

Curie’s work helped overturn established ideas in physics and chemistry. The radioactivity of radium contradicted the principle of conservation of energy and forced a reconsideration of the foundation of physics. In addition, her research showed that the radioactivity of radium appeared to successfully attack cancer.

Curie devoted her life to advancing science, dying in 1934 from her long-term exposure to radiation. After her death, Curie became the first woman to be honored with interment in the Pantheon on her own merits. At IV, we look at where we are today in the world of science with overwhelming admiration for Marie Curie and her enduring legacy.

Explore more transformative Nobel Prize winners and the inventing legacy of Alfred Nobel.

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Inventions to Satisfy Your Halloween Sweet Tooth

’Tis the season for haunted houses, spooky masks, ghost stories, goblins and ghouls. But this year, we’re focusing on the sweeter side of the season’s festivities – the Halloween candy on the minds of trick-or-treaters everywhere. And, like most great ideas, early inventions for candy making have evolved over time, constantly inspiring new and complex tasty treats. 

Inventions to Satisfy Your Halloween Sweet Tooth

The Rich Road Forward

We recently marveled over the vast number of industries that 3D printing promises to revolutionize, and as it turns out, the candy industry is among them. 3D printing technology has given chocolatiers and confectioners alike the ability to transform chocolate and candy into works of edible art. In 2014, Xerox patented a method for 3D printing chocolate that controls the chocolate temperature as each layer is gradually added. In collaboration with Hershey’s, 3D Systems has also developed a 3D printer that creates any shape of white, milk or dark chocolate. Watch it in action here.

Not only can candy lovers customize the size and shape of their chocolate, now they can also expose it to high temperatures without it melting. In the past few years, most of the world’s major candy companies have invented and patented methods for making melt-proof chocolate that can remain solid at temperatures as high as 100 degrees Fahrenheit. Nestlé’s filed a 2013 patent for making chocolate heat-tolerant by adding a dietary fiber from citrus, wheat or even peas to stabilize the chocolate at high temperatures.

A Sugary Start

But before 3D printing could change the candy industry, creative inventors needed to develop a host of other candy manufacturing inventions. One significant Industrial Revolution-era development was the revolving steam pan for boiling sugar, which used a combination of steam power and steam heat to free the candy maker from continuously stirring his or her confections. The pan also regulated the temperature with more precision, making it less likely that the sugar would burn.

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Cuba, Metamaterials, Silkworms and More: Twelve Must-Read Stories From October

At the GeekWire Summit 2016, Nathan Myhrvold said, “Every great idea starts off as a spark. We live in a society that has been completely technologically transformed by ideas that worked out.” Our favorite links this month tell stories of inventors and inventions that embody that kind of transformation. 

Cuba, Metamaterials, Silkworms and More: Twelve Must-Read Stories From October

Nathan Myhrvold speaks with Alan Boyle and Todd Bishop of Geekwire earlier this month

IV in the News

If you click on the video above, you’ll get a first-hand look at Nathan Myhrvold’s fireside chat with Todd Bishop and Alan Boyle of Geekwire earlier this month. Nathan spoke about the importance of metamaterials, investing in invention and the vast potential for technological innovation to improve the lives of those in need. Bonus – check out these photos from the event.

The Military Times shows how Global Good’s Photonic Fence beats bed nets and bug spray when it comes to keeping troops safe from vector-borne illnesses.

What if you could cordlessly connect your cell phones, TVs and computers to power without interruption? Duke University, the University of Washington and Intellectual Ventures are collaborating on technology that could make it possible.

Seattle Photonics Association announced that it will build on the work of our own Invention Science Fund on retinal imaging technology that can monitor changes in astronauts’ eyes during missions.

GeekWire highlights IV spinout Kymeta as it showcases its flat-panel antenna at the Monaco Yacht Show, delivering internet to 80 yachts at once.

Developing life-saving technology

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How a Seattle Doctor is Taking the Fight Against Breast Cancer Global

Breast cancer is the most common cancer worldwide, with approximately 1.7 million new cases diagnosed each year. It is a disease that does not discriminate based on racial and ethnic groups, experiences or age. With 58 percent of deaths from breast cancer occurring in developing countries, it is also a disease that crosses international lines. In fact, breast cancer is increasing rapidly in the developing world, where cases are often diagnosed in late stages and treatment options are severely limited. 

How a Seattle Doctor is Taking the Fight Against Breast Cancer Global

Photo courtesy of Seattle Cancer Care Alliance

Last week, we introduced you to our Innovating for a Cure series in honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month. Today, we spotlight a pioneering medical oncologist and women’s health advocate with a powerful vision that knows no boundaries.

Dr. Julie Gralow is the director of Breast Medical Oncology at Seattle Cancer Care Alliance, and a professor in the oncology division of the University of Washington School of Medicine. She has earned numerous awards for her research, chairing several committees, and participating in expert panels for breast cancer treatment and research as a member of the Southwest Oncology Group.

But Dr. Gralow is perhaps most truly defined not by the awards she earned within labs and clinics, but by her compassion for her patients and her tireless work to empower and educate women around the world on breast cancer detection and treatment. 

Taking the Fight Global

Dr. Gralow has launched an international movement of dedicated experts and volunteers arming women with the resources they need to take control of their health. She recognizes that, for far too many women around the world, fear, or the simple access to knowledge, stands in the way of early detection, treatment and ultimately, a happy ending.

Read the full story »

The FTC PAE Report: One Crucial Finding and Some Useful Statistics – but Also a Missed Opportunity

The FTC has released its long-awaited Patent Assertion Entity (PAE) Activity Report.  It is detailed, comprehensive and quite long – almost 270 pages!  I apologize for the length of this blog posting, but a report five years in the making deserves more than passing attention.

By far the most important finding of the Report – what the FTC describes as its first “Key Finding”[1] – is that not all PAEs are created equal. Instead, the FTC found that there are dramatic and significant differences between “Portfolio PAEs” such as IV, which emphasize licensing and high-value patents, and other types of litigation-oriented PAEs, which often draw criticism and negative marketplace scrutiny. 

The Report is disappointing in many respects – for example, it offers legislative recommendations not supported by the evidence in the report, and it misses a key opportunity to analyze the fundamental issue of how to value the mission and impact of PAEs.  But overall the in-depth analysis of the different models of PAE should provide useful insights in the ongoing discussions of patent policy.

Crucially, the Report highlights a significant flaw in virtually all prior academic studies in this field.  It observes, accurately, that most prior studies of PAE activity “have focused on publicly observable litigation behavior and relied on publicly available litigation data.”  And it notes that relying on only public data conceals key information that is required for a “deeper understanding of PAE business models,” such as “their confidential... licensing terms and data.” [2]  As is noted in the study, for PAEs such as IV, which reach negotiated licensing agreements far more often than they litigate, this information is critical to any well-founded analysis of the market impacts of its business model.  This Report attempts to gather that essential information and as a result is able to make a valuable contribution to the ongoing policy debate in this area. 

As noted, the Report draws an important distinction, supported by extensive analysis and evidence, between two very different modes of PAEs.  On the one hand, the Report recognizes what it calls “Portfolio PAEs” – firms like IV, which focus their efforts on investment, IP innovation and development, and wide-scale licensing of high-value patents to further develop significant technologies. (Indeed, the Report at various points notes the similarities between the strategies and business methods of Portfolio PAEs and those of other Non-Practicing Entities (NPEs) and of manufacturing firms).  In contrast, while the Report goes out of its way to eschew the term “patent troll,”[3]  it also draws a clear distinction between the methods and approach of high-value Portfolio PAEs with the strategies and approach of what the Report calls “Litigation PAEs” – PAEs that, according the findings of the Report, focus their efforts on low-value patent settlements that are generally consistent with nuisance settlements and appear driven by the interest of defendants in avoiding litigation costs.  The collection of hard data and statistical evidence and the FTC analysis of the clear differences between these two very different business models is an important and compelling aspect of the Report, and it alone makes the Report worth reading. 

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Innovating for a Cure — Dr. Mary-Claire King: Pioneering Advocate and Geneticist

Affecting one in eight women in the United States, the impact of breast cancer touches nearly everyone. In honor of Breast Cancer Awareness Month, Intellectual Ventures is celebrating two visionaries in the Seattle area whose ideas about what the future holds in the fight against breast cancer is changing lives. These pioneering scientists envision a world free from the disease that takes more than 40,800 lives per year in the U.S. alone, and through their innovation and determination, are turning their vision into reality.

Innovating for a Cure — Dr. Mary-Claire King: Pioneering Advocate and Geneticist

Mary-Claire King and President Barack Obama at the White House during the medal ceremony. Photo courtesy of the National Science and Technology Medals Foundation and Ryan K. Morris.

A geneticist and professor of Genome Sciences and Medicine at the University of Washington, Dr. Mary-Claire King is known worldwide for her groundbreaking gene work related to human conditions such as HIV, lupus, inherited deafness, and also breast and ovarian cancer. Dr. King discovered her true passion for genetics in graduate school, where she eventually combined her innovative vision in the field of genetics with statistics and evolutionary biology to drive her work to the war on cancer. This combination led Dr. King to the assumption that certain cancers, like breast cancer, might be genetically linked mutations and not caused by viruses.

Dr. King’s relentless pursuit for answers and advocacy for women’s health lead to the breakthrough discovery of the “breast cancer gene,” proving that breast cancer is hereditary in some families. This work has revolutionized diagnosis and treatment, proving that genetics and complex human disease can have a relationship, saving lives and empowering women.

Science for Human Rights
 

A passionate advocate for social justice, Dr. King has dedicated her life and science acumen to improving lives worldwide. Not always popular at the time, Dr. King’s contributions to breast cancer research were driven by the need for women to be equipped with the genetic information to make critical health decisions for themselves and their families.

Read the full story »

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