A Night at the Smithsonian, Patent Style

Alex Kipman, National Inventor of the Year.

On Monday the Intellectual Property Owners Education Foundation held its popular annual event simply titled PTO Day, which started early in the morning and ran throughout the day. PTO Day is, however, not the only event on the IPO calendar for December. After the close of the conference proceedings and as afternoon turns to evening a who’s who of the patent and innovation communities don black-ties (for the men) and elegant gowns (for the ladies).

One of the highlights of the year in such circles is the awarding of the National Inventor of the Year Award at a dinner ceremony in Washington, DC. This year the Awards Ceremony was hosted at the old Patent Office building, which today houses the Smithsonian American Art Museum and the National Portrait Gallery. If you have never been to this venue it is, in my opinion, one of the finest venues in all of Washington, DC for such an event. Of course, the fact that it was a first class, extraordinarily well done event only added to the evening. The meal was a fabulous shrimp appetizer, followed by filet mignon and an incredibly rich chocolate cake and ice cream for desert. The wine flowed throughout the evening, and everyone had a great time.

Alex Kipman (left), David Kappos (right).

This year the IPO recognized Alex Kipman of Microsoft, the inventor of Kinect, as the 39th Inventor of the Year. Kipman was introduced and presented the award by David Kappos, the outgoing Director of the United States Patent and Trademark Office. The fact that Kappos was the presenter allowed the IPO to sneak in a moment of appreciation for all that Kappos has done for the patent and innovation communities. For his efforts, and to say thank you, those in attendance gave Director Kappos a standing ovation.

As someone who does not work in the life sciences it was wonderful to see some love for inventors in the electronics and software arena.  Kinect is most closely associated with Xbox 360, but the technology that allows users to control video games and gadgets (such as robots) through the use of controller free motion. In other words, the movements the user makes are mimicked by a game or robot without the need to physically interact with a joystick or controller. Kinect also supports voice commands as well.  The technology could well revolutionize any number of remote activities as it matures, allowing for superior human control of machines from afar.

Chief Judge Holderman (left), Phil Johnson (right)

A relatively newer tradition for the IPO is to also recognize a distinguished member of the IP community. This year the 5th Distinguished IP Professional honoree was Judge James Holderman, Chief Judge of the United States Federal District Court for the Northern District of Illinois, who was presented the award by Phil Johnson, Chief IP Counsel for Johnson & Johnson. Chief Judge Holderman is no stranger to the patent litigation bar. He presides over one of the most active district courts in the United States, at least in terms of patent cases. Under his leadership the Norther District of Illinois adopted local patent rules that have been a model for other courts, and the court is a participant in the pilot program that directs patent cases to district judges with interest in handling this difficult and complex proceedings.

An even newer tradition is an award for youngsters in a variety of age groups. The IPO sponsors a video contest  for the purpose of educating teens and the public at large about how the patent system protects inventors and promotes progress. The award was presented by Louis Foreman (Everyday Edison’s and Inventors Digest) to winners Alexis Salcedo and Sam Marlott in the 13-15 year old category, Lewie Kloster and Jason Girouard in the 16-18 year old category, and Reggie Schickle and Matthew Kim in the 19+ age category. Winners in the 13-15 age group won $1,500 each, while the other winners received a $5,000 scholarship payable to any accredited college, university or trade school. The winning videos can be viewed at the IPO website.

Congratulations to all the winners, and to the IPO for one of the best events of the year. It is a wonderful event, everyone had a good time and it was first class all the way, as you would expect from the IPO!

What follows is a bit of a photo diary of the event.

Brad Olson (left) is a longtime friend of mine who is a patent litigator at Haynes & Boone. I have known Brad since our days at the law school formerly known as Franklin Pierce Law Center (now UNH). With him is a new associate at Haynes & Boone, also from our alma mater, Sarah Hasford.


Left: Bernard Knight (USPTO General Counsel) and Chief Judge Paul Michel.


Left to Right: Louis Foreman, Alya Michelson and Hall of Fame Inventor Dr. Gary Michelson.


From left to right: Robert Atkins, Leslie Kimball, David Kappos and Todd Dickinson.


Phil Johnson introducing Chief Judge Holderman looks out at the packed Atrium.


Warning & Disclaimer: The pages, articles and comments on IPWatchdog.com do not constitute legal advice, nor do they create any attorney-client relationship. The articles published express the personal opinion and views of the author as of the time of publication and should not be attributed to the author’s employer, clients or the sponsors of IPWatchdog.com.

Join the Discussion

One comment so far.