Celebrating Creative Women on World IP Day | Citizens Against Government Waste

Celebrating Creative Women on World IP Day

The WasteWatcher

While the contributions of intellectual property should be recognized every day, World Intellectual Property Day provides the opportunity to reflect on how innovation and technology go hand in hand with intellectual property rights, and the ability those rights give to innovators and creators across all industries.  The 2023 celebration on April 26 is titled, “Women and IP:  Accelerating innovation and creativity.”  In 2018, there was a similar theme, “Powering change:  Women in innovation and creativity.”

Intellectual property (IP) was so important to the Founding Fathers that it was the only property right protected in the Constitution, Article 1, Section 8:

To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries.

While the contributions of American women to innovation and technology date back to the 1800s, they also involve women who are better known for their other accomplishments.  One of the best examples of such an inventor is actress Hedy LaMarr, who both graced the silver screen and has a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.  She helped the U.S. Navy during World War II by developing a communications system, known as frequency-hopping using spectrum, that improved the accuracy of torpedoes by remote control.  The frequency-hopping developed by LaMarr is now used in cell phones, Wi-Fi, CDMA, GPS, Bluetooth and many other wireless systems that are used by billions of people around the world every day.  While she invented the technology, she never filed for a patent and thus never earned a penny from her ingenuity.

LaMarr is by far not the only woman who filled a need that saved or improved lives.  During the mid-1800s, Ada Lovelace wrote a description of an analytic engine, and is considered by some to be the “first computer programmer.”  In the late 1800s, Mary Walton was given two patents on devices that reduced pollution and reduced noise vibrations on railroad tracks.  In 1903, Mary Anderson created a windshield wiper to help drivers see in inclement weather.  Katharine Blodgett, while working at General Electric, created non-reflective glass in 1938.  In 1971, Stephanie Kwolek developed Kevlar, used to make helmets, bulletproof vests, and suspension bridges.

Sometimes innovation is based on necessity, and other times it can be entirely through trial and error. Regardless of how these new inventions are created, the rights of those who thought of the ideals should be protected.

According to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s 2022 International IP Index, the U.S. is the leader in protecting IP rights.  But there remains a global disparity in the protection of IP, particularly for inventions developed by women.  According to a World Intellectual Property Organization (WIPO) 2020 report, “only 16.5 percent of inventors named in international patent applications were women … WIPO estimates that, at the current pace, parity amongst PCT-listed inventors will only be reached in 2058.”

Protecting IP rights is critical not only just for women, but for the entire national economy.  According to the Chamber’s Global IP Center, “IP-intensive industries employ over 45 million Americans, and hundreds of millions of people worldwide.  Jobs in IP-intensive industries are expected to grow faster over the next decade than the national average.  The average working in an IP-intensive industry earned about 46% more than his counterpart in a non-IP industry.”

Protecting IP rights, especially for women, should be foremost on everyone’s mind on World IP Day. Otherwise, there will be fewer inventions and innovations that help improve, protect, and save lives.

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