Remarks delivered at the Conrad Virtual Innovation Summit
Deputy Director of the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office Laura Peter
May 27, 2020
Hello everyone! And thank you, Nancy, and the entire Conrad Foundation, for hosting this inspirational summit. I’m Deputy Director Laura Peter of the United States Patent and Trademark Office, and it is such a pleasure to be speaking with you all today. And congratulations to our Conrad finalists! Now more than ever, we need your brilliance and ingenuity.
Nancy began the foundation in 2008, to honor her husband Pete and his innovative spirit. Pete, also launched four businesses related to space travel! And, as if that wasn’t enough, Pete additionally received a U.S. patent for his invention called, “Multiple Access Satellite Communications Network.” This technology was, and still is, used to transmit communication signals including telephone, microwave, television, radio, and internet.
Pete was ahead of his time in so many ways. He even took one of the first space “selfies,” in 1969, when his image was reflected in the helmet of his crewmate Alan Bean during the historic Apollo 12 moon landing. He was an amazing innovator, and the USPTO honored him on one of our USPTO Inventor Collectible Cards. And to show you just how big a fan I am, I am sporting the silver aviator sunglasses he was so famous for wearing.
I’m sure that Pete would be very proud of all of you and the amazing things you’ve invented: an asteroid mining system that will bring rare-earth minerals back to Earth, a mobile application that can help people stutter less, a dispenser system that helps prevent opioid overdoses, a robotic glove that can help you learn sign-language, and the list goes on and on! I have to say, I am truly impressed!
I’m also thrilled to hear that you’ve all learned how to file a patent as a requirement for this competition. I know our education team has already spoken with you about this important process, so you have a great head start! Today is just the beginning of an exciting journey for you.
Many past Conrad Scholars have gone on to do truly remarkable things. You may be familiar with Kavya Kopparapu, a 2017 Conrad Scholar who created “eye-agnosis” to prevent blindness caused by diabetes. Inspired by her grandfather’s condition, Kavya developed a new way of screening for retinopathy using a 3D-printed lens attachment connected to a smartphone app. And she was named one of TIME Magazine’s 25 most influential teens in 2018 for it. What a cool accomplishment!
Kavya’s current patent-pending project, called GlioVision, is a personalized treatment for cancer, which uses a scanned image of a biopsy rather than a DNA sample. Kavya believes that young students like you have a unique perspective. She said, we “look at problems as they can be solved in the future, not as they are constrained by the technology right now.” That’s why she created the Girls Computing League; a non-profit organization that aims to empower girls, and other under-represented groups, and encourages participation in computer science and technology in middle and high school.
Along this same line, the USPTO is working with communities around the world to empower enterprising young pioneers, including women, through programs such as the Collegiate Inventors Competition. This competition is an annual event that brings graduate and undergraduate students together to showcase their inventions while networking with world-class inventors and USPTO experts. The winner in the undergraduate category last year invented a new type of energy efficient transmission for electric vehicles. And along with the other participants, the winner got to meet the inventors of Post-It Notes® and the inventors of the digital camera, among other luminaries and experts. I had the great honor of presenting the awards to the finalists last fall. Many CIC finalists even go on to bring their inventions to market and start their own businesses. How cool is that? I hope you all can come join us for this competition in the future.
Remarkable inventors like Pete Conrad, Kavya Kopparapu, our innovation competition participants, and all of you participating at this summit over the next few days, remind us just how very bright our future is. The ideas represented in this virtual setting – your ideas – will help make the world a better place, in so many ways.
You have already started blazing your own trails, so keep it up! And remember the wise words of Ralph Waldo Emerson: “What lies behind you and what lies in front of you, pales in comparison to what lies inside of you.” Thank you, and good luck to you all!