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Empowering Women through STEM During Women’s History Month

During Women’s History Month, it’s important to take the time to honor women leaders who have paved the way for our present-day success. I also want to mark the occasion by looking forward to a time where women and men will share equally in STEM degrees and jobs – and in inventing.

Right now, women hold only 7.5 percent of all patents, and 5.5 percent of commercialized patents. Studies show that the reason for this disparity originates from the reality that few women are working in patent-intensive fields and jobs. As a result, too many inventive teams around the country are missing out on the benefits of a diverse workforce.

In order to increase the proportion of women who hold patents, we need to raise the numbers of women achieving degrees in science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM). I’m deeply passionate about this issue, and I speak to young girls around the country each year to encourage them to pursue their interests in these areas. When I meet these girls, I seek to bust the myth that women are anything but extraordinarily capable when it comes to STEM.

At Intellectual Ventures, we deeply appreciate the work of inventors, and believe that their ideas are valuable. And we have some amazing women who work on our teams. We’ve profiled a few of them recently, including Grace Huynh, an infectious disease specialist. We also work with Senior Inventor Muriel Ishikawa and her daughter, Victoria Wood. Some of Victoria’s 280 awarded patents to-date include inventions in the energy, transportation, human welfare, medical, healthcare, mining, imaging, and nuclear reactor sectors. Her mother holds 440 patents in many of the same areas, as well as in laser technology and applied nuclear chemistry. They share a common goal to improve the quality of human life.

We feature these women because their contributions are playing a key role in improving our world. I hope that their stories reach young women who are considering pursuing degrees and careers in STEM and encourage them to do the same.

As March draws to a close, I want to take this opportunity to salute the women of the past and highlight our continued prioritization and support for the women of the future. When we empower girls and women around the world to pursue their dreams, the invention economy and all of humanity stand to benefit.


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Intellectual Property for Growth | Startup “Yactraq” Leans on IV to Accelerate Growth

At Intellectual Ventures we believe in the transformational power of novel ideas, and that such ideas can catalyze meaningful progress and represent true, lasting value. We believe this value can be realized in a multitude of forms and is shaped by the vision and aspirations of not only the creators of ideas, but also of those who understand their value.

Earlier this month we entered into a long-term partnership with emerging audio analytics technology startup Yactraq, a company defined by their boot-strapping, entrepreneurial spirit. 

Yactraq shares the same strong belief in, and dedication to, the power of ideas that we hold here at IV, and its relationship with us can be summed up in one word: Growth.

Yactraq specializes in providing market leading data analytics and search solutions for audio-video data through speech recognition technology – an industry where the threat of patent litigation has been used to stymie innovation and deter growth. Under our partnership, Yactraq is a new IV customer and the latest member of IV’s Intellectual Property for Defense Program.

“We are both proud and excited to be working with Intellectual Ventures,” noted Leland Huss, Chief Marketing Officer at Yactraq. “This agreement signifies a validation of Yactraq’s technology platform and unique services, as well as a pivotal opportunity to grow our business with the help of an industry leader possessing a wealth of resources and experience.”

Yactraq CEO Jeh Daruvala added, “By partnering with Intellectual Ventures and participating in its IP for Defense Program, we gain the latitude to continue our focus on developing high impact business solutions knowing our trajectory is safeguarded through IV’s support. There really is no comparable partner to IV. They provide an invaluable benefit that gives small businesses like ours the chance to openly drive innovation and challenge the industry.”

Companies of any size, at any stage, can benefit from developing a proactive intellectual property (IP) strategy. We see this every day through our strategic relationships with innovative small businesses like Yactraq, Fuisz Media and CollinsWoerman, our partners such as REFLX Labs, and even our collaboration with Coffee Flour Global. While these companies were shaped by different ideas and hail from varied industries, what they all have in common is a belief in the value of IP and the growth it can deliver, and they are working with Intellectual Ventures to realize that value.

 


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Ebola’s Grim Reminder

Last summer, I watched with the same horror many felt as reports from West Africa emerged of Ebola’s deadly toll. The virus has devastated families, wreaked havoc on health systems and savaged economies. But to be frank, I’m much more worried that next time – and there will be a next time – it will be far worse.

Today, Bill Gates makes the case at both TED and in the New England Journal of Medicine that if Ebola has taught us anything, it is how dangerously unprepared we are to deal with a global epidemic. As he so aptly describes the world’s response to Ebola in the New York Times, “The problem isn’t so much that the system didn’t work well enough. The problem is that we hardly have a system at all.”

In an essay I published in 2013 in Lawfare, I raised similar questions about our national security – but in the context of a strategic biological attack. Many of the preventative measures we could take to improve our institutional and infrastructural defenses against bioterrorism are the same ones that would save lives in the event of a pandemic or an emergent pathogen. Antiviral drug research and development, monitoring systems for detecting outbreaks early or coordinated emergency response protocols to name but a few.

Because the next time it might not be Ebola. It might be a new disease like SARS or MERS. Or it might be a strain of flu like the 1918 Spanish Influenza Pandemic. Instead of thousands of deaths, millions, or even hundreds of millions of lives could hang in the balance.

This helps explains in part why Intellectual Ventures has been hard at work on a number of outbreak- related projects over the last six months. Small measures to be certain, but ones I am proud to see contribute to the scientific research whole:

  • The Institute for Disease Modelling (IDM) supported the Ebola response with data-driven analysis of the sub-national patterns of the virus’ spread in West Africa. By illustrating at a district-level were Ebola was increasing, decreasing, and plateauing over time, the data IDM shared with global health partners assisted in planning Ebola responses by the areas that would face an increased burden in the weeks ahead.     
  • Global Good has deployed an ice vest that has helped Ebola health workers spend more time with their patients, with less risk of infection to themselves. We built up this expertise by evaluating hundreds of personal cooling solutions ourselves, and working directly with medical experts to understand what would work best for healthcare workers within the constraints of the Ebola Treatment Centers in West Africa. Since October 2014, IV has deployed over 1,000 personal cooling systems (enough to supply the priority locations) at Ebola Treatment Centers and hospitals in Guinea, Sierra Leone, and Liberia, where the need and case counts were the highest.
  • Global Good is supporting clinical trials led by the World Health Organization and the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Ebola-affected countries, with a modified version of our passive vaccine storage device, called the Arktek. Maintaining the “cold chain” at extremely low temperatures is essential to keeping vaccines safe and effective, especially in areas without reliable electricity supply. 

I do not profess to be an expert in defense, let alone global health. But I will happily be accused of being a technological optimist. I share with Bill an unwavering belief in human ingenuity. I believe we will invent our way out of these problems, as we have done in so many cases before.

But that’s also why we should so listen closely to Bill’s call to action: we need a global warning and response system for outbreaks.

Because Ebola is a tragedy, but it could very well have been a catastrophe. 


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Behind the Breakthrough: Dr. Grace Huynh

Meet Dr. Grace Huynh, a senior research scientist at the Institute for Disease Modeling, part of Intellectual Ventures’ Global Good initiative. Grace focuses on tuberculosis modeling in close collaboration with international philanthropy organizations and government agencies to find novel solutions to fight some of the world’s toughest diseases. Here are some of her reflections:

On the impact of her research:

“At the Institute for Disease Modeling, we support policymaking in everything from TB to HIV, malaria, and polio. Our ideas help develop new statistical modeling to monitor how infections and rates of infection change over time.”

“Our research creates opportunities to deliver targeted therapies on an individual level, but also improves healthcare broadly. Healthcare is not the same for everyone, and not all interventions are effective in all countries. One country’s population might need radically different delivery systems than another. So [the Institute for Disease Modeling] works to determine the best solutions by analyzing the entire healthcare ecosystem.”

On the research she conducts:

“You could call my research ‘meta.’ I model TB trends to develop treatment solutions that tailor to small populations. With original data, we look at how a disease progresses in one area compared to another. For example, the risk of TB progression in someone suffering from malnutrition in a densely populated area is entirely different from someone who is otherwise healthy and lives privately. If we understand the different types of progression, we will have a better understanding of how to fight the disease as a whole.”

On progress she hopes to see:

“I would like to see improved global healthcare. Our research is making an impact, but there is always more to be done. The population will keep growing and we need to ask ourselves, ‘what are we doing to make sure everyone has a healthy and productive life?’ With more research, we can take big steps towards addressing the spread of preventable diseases that rob so many people of their livelihood and lives each year. As a society, we should always look out for one another. We will keep progressing if we do.”

Follow our Behind the Breakthrough series by subscribing to our IV Insights blog, and check out more quotes from inventors and scientists on our Facebook and LinkedIn pages.


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Honoring Women Inventors

Intellectual Ventures recognizes the similarly amazing contributions that women make in invention and innovation. During Women’s History Month, IV is honoring a few of the many women inventors whose work strengthens businesses, leads to economic development, and improves society as a whole.  

Honoring Women Inventors

Grace Murray Hopper

Though her work was never patented, Rear Admiral Dr. Grace Hopper played a key role in developing computer software. She worked on one of the world’s first computers, the Mark-1 at Harvard University, coined the terms “bug” and “debugging,” and developed the first concept of a compiler, a way to translate computer code between different languages.

Stephanie Kwolek

In 1965, Stephanie Kwolek made a breakthrough in her lab at DuPont when she invented the synthetic fibers used in Kevlar. Ever since, body armor around the world has relied on Kevlar due to its formidable strength.

For her work, Kwolek received many lifetime accolades, including the Kilby Award and the 1999 Lemelson-MIT Lifetime Achievement Award. She’s also a member of the National Inventors Hall of Fame. These awards honor her extraordinary breakthrough; many men and women around the world owe their lives to Stephanie’s invention.

Katherine Blodgett

When Katherine Blodgett got her job at 19 with GE’s Research Laboratory, she became the first female scientist to work for the lab.

In 1938, Blodgett received a patent for inventing the world’s first truly clear glass. The monumental invention paved the way for countless applications – eyeglasses, telescopes, cameras, projectors, and microscopes all are possible due to Blodgett’s work. 

Becky Schroeder

In 1974 and at age 12, Becky Schroeder received a patent for her glow-in-the-dark paper invention. The “Glo-sheet” received significant demand from doctors, photographers, and EMTs – anyone who needed to write on paper in the dark.

Schroeder holds the title as the youngest woman to ever receive a patent. To develop her invention, she experimented with phosphorescence paint on papers and clipboards after trying to complete her homework in the car after dusk one evening, proving that anyone of any age can have a breakthrough idea.

Intellectual Ventures and the IV Lab have profiled many women inventors in the past; check out some of our other stories on Ada Lovelace, the world’s first computer programmer, Hedy Lemarr, who invented a way to encode radio signals during wartime, and our top five favorite inventions by women.

Also, check out the stories of the accomplished African American inventors who we honored last month during Black History Month.


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Latest Patent Study Misses the Point

The latest study purporting to shine a light on patents and the invention economy is a survey conducted by UC Berkeley’s Robin Feldman and Stanford’s Mark Lemley. We’ve been pointing out for years that sound data supporting the need for further changes to patent enforceability is lacking, so we were curious to see what these two academics might say about patent licensing and its relationship to innovation.

Latest Patent Study Misses the Point

In their new study, professors Feldman and Lemley raise a very interesting question -- whether society benefits by providing exclusive rights to an inventor when, in many circumstances, a second inventor would likely have come up with the same invention independently.

While this is an interesting thought experiment worthy of serious academic debate, in the United States our patent system is constitutionally charged with “securing for limited times to…inventors the exclusive right to their…discoveries.” Put another way, our patent system has been designed to reward inventors by granting them the exclusive rights to their inventions. 

Because of this, asking a small group of lawyers whether paying for the use of an invention – after it’s already been infringed – results in additional innovation, clouds, rather than clarifies, the issue. The issue becomes especially clouded when the researchers only receive 188 responses from 10,000 queries, and many of the responses come from members of the Internet Association, CCIA and Coalition for Patent Fairness – all of which are zealous advocates for legislation that undermines patent enforceability.

Since a patent is not a right to practice, it is does not make sense to suggest that (or study whether) providing a license to an infringer would promote innovation at the infringing company. It should not be a surprise to anyone that the primary benefit to a licensee already practicing the patent is “freedom to operate” – that’s all a patent owner, who only owns a right to exclude, is able to provide an infringer.

In the current system, it is the promise of the right to exclude that is intended to promote innovation – by the inventor, not by the infringer, and with that system in place the United States has been a technological leader for decades. For instance, a recent paper from Professor Arthur Diamond at the University of Nebraska at Omaha analyzes our current system and makes the case that patents not only incent inventors to invent, but also often provide the funds to enable entrepreneurs to turn inventions into innovations.

And, a new study from Stanford professor Stephen Haber not only supports some of Professor Diamond’s assertions, but it also directly contradicts professors Lemley and Feldman by showing that patent licensors play “a useful intermediary role between individual inventors and large manufacturers.”

While these esteemed academics have radically different views on whether patents and patent licensing promote innovation, the fact remains that our patent system is at the heart of our innovation economy. So I’d propose another thought experiment that gets the heart of the issue: is there any other tech economy in the world Professors Lemley and Feldman would like to swap for that of the US?

To be clear, Intellectual Ventures has for years been a supporter of legislation that will truly improve the patent system. But the study from professors Lemley and Feldman asks the wrong questions to the wrong people. It sets up, and then knocks down, a straw man argument, and fails to add meaningfully to the debate.


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News You Can Use: Universities Investing in Invention

Universities are innovation powerhouses. Armed with some of the world’s brightest minds—and with direct access to the next generation of scientists and technologists—they’re able to focus talent to develop solutions to a broad scope of challenges. 

News You Can Use: Universities Investing in Invention

From building new centers to awarding grants in key areas, this week’s News You Can Use includes stories about how universities around the country are investing in invention.

  • Recognizing the important contributions that students make to invention, the Lemelson Foundation gifted MIT $1 million to support programs that teach students key skills necessary for successful innovation and entrepreneurship.
  • The University of Pennsylvania released new designs for its planned innovation complex. The center will support interdisciplinary collaboration on innovative projects and includes an entire level devoted to lab-to-market technology development on areas like robotics, the Internet of things, and embedded systems.
  • Penn State announced a $30 million innovation initiative designed to “increase economic innovation, tech innovation, and tech start-ups.” Among other things, the money will support new commercialization initiatives to take inventions out of the lab and into the marketplace.
  • The University of South Carolina broke ground this past week on its own innovation complex, “The Center for Applied Innovation.” The new building will allow students to undertake internships with key corporations while still in school, partnerships designed to equip them with the skills to innovate in their future careers.
  • Princeton recently announced its second round of awards from the Dean for Research’s innovation funds. The funds are designed to support promising exploratory research projects to seed larger potential future initiatives. The seven selected projects encompass new ideas in the natural sciences, humanities, and collaborations with industry.

@IVinvents regularly shares IP and tech innovation news. Follow along, and let us know what you’ve been reading, too.


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Behind the Breakthrough: Jake Russell

This week on Behind the Breakthrough, we’re profiling Jake Russell, a member of Intellectual Ventures’ Invention Development Fund. While he usually focuses on software development and innovative computer algorithms, he also applies the process of invention to his passion for cars and racing.

Photo: Jake Russell and his daughter.

Jake works as an Invention Development Manager at Intellectual Ventures. In the past, his breakthrough inventions in software development provided JPEG2000 software products and services for the Geographic Information Systems (GIS) industry.

Here are some of his reflections:

On the process of invention:
“When I think of an invention, I usually start with an important problem and work toward a solution. But effective inventing isn’t about coming up with just any solution; it’s about finding one that’s both useful and practical.  Trying to conceive an invention that’s useful and practical in the future can make you want to look into a crystal ball.”

On the challenges of being an inventor:
“The hardest part about inventing is the time commitment. Good ideas can take a significant amount of time to create and refine into a useful and specific example. There’s this idea that being an inventor means always thinking of radical new concepts that change the world. The reality is that even an incremental development that takes one tiny, but useful and practical step toward solving a problem can be very valuable.  When combined, multiple incremental improvements can collectively enable new and compelling innovations – such as the modern-day smartphone.”

On advice for young inventors:
“The youngest inventors are, in fact, kids of any age who are interested in how things work. My advice for them is to find something you’re passionate about and pursue it creatively. With a hands-on approach, you can easily experiment to increase your knowledge – and that process is the very first step to being an inventor.”

“And don’t forget that communication is important! Effectively explaining your ideas can make you an even better inventor – you’ll be better at convincing the right people that your creation is valuable and can make the world a better place.”

On an invention he would like to see in his lifetime:
“In recent years, there have been some amazing discoveries of tiny particles and related phenomena that seem to underpin everything in our world. I can’t wait to see how we leverage these elementary particles and quantum mechanics in more ways, to turn more of today’s science fiction concepts into tomorrow’s reality.“

“I think some of the most important work happening right now relates to energy development. In my lifetime, I’d love to see practical “hot” or “cold” fusion power generation, which could give us virtually limitless energy with fewer adverse effects.”

“The idea of space exploration has also always piqued my interest. For me, it’s a huge disappointment that we haven’t been back to the moon in my lifetime. I believe we could inspire many young inventors to 'think big' if they saw us on the moon again.”

Follow our Behind the Breakthrough series by subscribing to our IV Insights blog, and check out more quotes from inventors and scientists on our Facebook and LinkedIn pages.

Click here to read our kickoff post on Greg Phelan, and view more inventor profiles through our Inventor Spotlights series.


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Game-Changing Times in the Transportation Industry

It’s an important time in the transportation industry as the consumer depends on technology to stay connected with their professional and social networks. This dependency is driving consumer electronics, connectivity, and information technologies rapidly to converge in automotive and other transportation industries. Automotive companies are finding the need to maintain access to a wide array of relevant patents, not traditionally available in the automotive space.

That’s why we are so pleased that Ford Motor Company signed a license agreement with Intellectual Ventures (IV). The deal provides Ford and its affiliates with a license to IV's patent portfolio of approximately 40,000 current IP assets in addition to future IV assets that may be acquired during the license term. IV offers an efficient way to access the invention rights companies need to drive innovation within the market.

IV provides a variety of solutions for companies looking to develop and enhance their intellectual property (IP) strategies and counts many of the world’s leading technology companies as customers and partners. Companies of all sizes rely on IV to meet their current business needs and to provide guidance on developing and acquiring invention rights relevant to their product roadmaps. In addition to traditional IP licensing deals, companies can work with IV's in-house inventors and its network of more than 4,000 inventors around the world to solve near-term technical issues and invent the technologies that will differentiate their next-generation products from the competition.


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International Governments Prioritize IP Development

Intellectual property development and protection is a global enterprise, and more and more countries are viewing IP as a critical asset to their economies. Global buy-in on the importance of IP is moving governments to incentivize inventors to find cutting-edge solutions to today’s most pressing challenges.

As countries prioritize intellectual property development, the value of collaboration is becoming increasingly evident, and engagement in the IP landscape is making cross-border cooperation easier. September’s BOAO Forum for Asia in Seattle, where IV founder and CTO Edward Jung spoke about the global benefits from Asia’s invention boom, offered one such opportunity to learn from executives and innovators from Asia and hear about ways they are approaching the world’s most challenging problems. 

Prioritizing invention—and strengthening the IP marketplace—also increases the number of people globally who can devote time to addressing systemic issues facing the developing world. Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory recently released a study identifying the “top-50 critical scientific and technological breakthroughs required for sustainable global development,” which highlighted innovations in desalination technology, smartphones, education resources, energy sources, and fertilizers, among others.

New approaches to incentivizing innovation will help the world address these issues while simultaneously improving the economic climate for inventors globally. Some examples of these approaches include: 

  • China has instituted a number of new ideas, including opening IP exchanges to help companies buy and sell IP rights and setting up a government venture capital fund worth $6.5 billion to support start-ups in emerging industries. 
  • The United Kingdom implemented the Science and Innovation Strategy to set priorities for investment well into the next decade and  to underscore principles to guide science and innovation policy. 
  • The Malaysian government started a program to allow companies to use their IP rights as collateral for loans to further develop ideas. 
  • Nigeria’s National Office for Technology Acquisition and Promotion aims to strengthen domestic expertise in technology development, encouraging local inventors to convert their ideas into IP, as well as establishing technology transfer hubs at the country’s universities.
  • The European Union kicked off Horizon 2020, a framework “providing the money, motivation and muscle to keep Europe at the forefront of knowledge, and turn good ideas into innovation.” Horizon 2020 uses a challenge-based approach to make Europe a “magnet for innovation.”
  • Southeast Asian nations collaborated to establish best practices in IP management and protection. In July, IP office leaders at ASEAN announced new collaborative initiatives to encourage new inventions and help companies maximize the return of their IP assets. 
  • The UAE announced a 7 point plan with Dh4.1 billion in funding to promote innovation by improving STEM education and offering invention challenges. 

As governments strengthen IP rights and encourage innovation, they also broaden the private sector’s ability to access a global network of patents and inventors. The spate of innovation initiatives described above also offer governments opportunities to adopt new best practices on methods to foster intellectual property development. At Intellectual Ventures, we support countries’ efforts to strengthen their IP systems and look forward to future partnership opportunities around the globe.

Check out IV’s blog about the BOAO forum to learn more about what industry leaders are discussing about IP in the global landscape.


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Adriane Brown

Adriane Brown

Adriane Brown is the President and COO of Intellectual Ventures.

Cory Van Arsdale

Cory Van Arsdale

Cory Van Arsdale is senior vice president of global licensing at IV.

Nathan Myhrvold

Nathan Myhrvold

Nathan is IV's Founder and Chief Executive Officer.

Peter Detkin

Peter Detkin

Peter N. Detkin is a founder and vice-chairman of Intellectual Ventures, where he focuses on a variety of projects relating to intellectual property and invention.

Adriane Brown

Adriane Brown

Adriane Brown is the President and COO of Intellectual Ventures.

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